We at Cartilage Free Captain do transfer rumors often, and we do them well. But sometimes it’s worth doing a deeper dive into Tottenham Hotspur’s transfer targets, so we’re bringing back a series from a couple of years ago — Daniel Levy’s Imaginary Shortlist. These are players that Spurs have either been linked to in the transfer window, or sometimes who they should be linked to as the club tries to improve to challenge for a Premier League title.
Up first: Fulham’s teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon.
Name: Ryan Sessegnon
League: EFL Championship
Primary position: Left Back
Can also play: Left Attacking Midfielder
Ryan Sessegnon is The Next Big Thing™ in English football. He’s a teenager who has been exceptional as a contributor for a Championship club that made the promotion playoffs this past season. There’s a palpable buzz around him and for very good reason. He was heavily courted by both Tottenham and Liverpool, but the Reds recently backed off their pursuit of him, leaving Spurs ostensibly as the front-runners for his signature.
Sessegnon’s primary characteristic is his blistering pace. The dude is super fast, which makes him a particularly tasty option up the left flank. He wants the ball and isn’t afraid to go straight at defenders. He also has the technical ability to dribble past them.
You might remember that Spurs played (and beat) Fulham in the FA Cup this past season, and it was notable that when Sessegnon came on as a substitute it happened to correspond with one of the better periods of play for the Cottagers. He didn’t exactly torch Kieran Trippier in the match, but neither did he look especially outmatched.
Here’s Sessegnon’s radar from Stats Bomb, which looks a little like a manta ray:
Sessegnon isn’t an all-around player yet, and his radar reflects that. However, it does touch upon the areas in which he excels, even if those performances came against Championship-caliber clubs. And if you’d rather see him in action, here’s a highlight video of his play from last season.
But what makes him particularly exciting as a potential addition to a Mauricio Pochettino side is his willingness to press. Sessegnon has a really good motor and a high work rate, and isn’t afraid to close down defenders when asked. Right now he has a pretty slight frame and he’s not going to be outmuscling Premier League players anytime soon. Consequently, his defense relies on his football intelligence and good positioning rather than scrapping with bigger, older forwards. That said, he’s only 17.
In fact, his play reminds me just a little of a young Welsh fullback that used to play for us, and much like Gareth Bale, Sessegnon’s future probably isn’t at left back. Sessegnon is already comfortable playing higher up the pitch as a left sided attacking midfielder, and as good as he is as a fullback that’s probably where his long term future lies.
However, despite all that promise, Sessegnon should still be considered a player for the future, and not necessarily for the present. Not every player can blitz into the side from the lower leagues like Dele Alli, and it’s likely that Ryan would start the season behind both Danny Rose and Ben Davies. Depending on Rose’s health, there would even be the possibility of loaning Sessegnon back to Fulham or another club for a year to get an extra season of first team football, much like Spurs did with Alli.
Likely price: ~£300k, but with a huge caveat. Sessegnon hasn’t yet signed a professional contract, and Fulham desperately wanted him to do that so they could slap a huge transfer fee on him. That appears unlikely, and according to the Elite Player Performance Plan (which replaced player tribunals), Fulham are now likely to be shafted if he decides to leave. Often in cases like these, the player will wait for a while to see if there are interested clubs that will pay him good wages before making a decision.
Chances that the valuation is wrong: Distinctly possible. There’s an argument, espoused here by SB Nation’s Fulham blog Cottagers Confidential, that Sessegnon, who may currently be on a schoolboy scholarship contract, might not be available to transfer out of Fulham until he turns 18 thanks to FA regulations. Even if this is the case, there are ways to force the issue, or Spurs and Fulham can come up with their own agreement. It’s super confusing and nobody’s really sure what it all means. In short, he could either cost peanuts, or substantially more. Right now, we don’t know.
Team’s willingness to sell: Fulham doesn’t WANT to sell Sessegnon, but they know there’s no way they can keep a talent like his indefinitely. Since he’s refusing to sign a contract at Craven Cottage, it’s now virtually certain that he will be sold, and to a very good club.
Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: Very good. He perfectly fits the mold of the fast, attacking fullback that Pochettino has preferred, and his ceiling is ridiculous. Left back is his current position, but it’s quite possible that it won’t be his permanent one, which makes him a potential multi-positional player, and Pochettino LOVES those.
Possibility he ends up at Spurs: Likely, but not certain. It’s thought that Spurs have taken the pole position for his transfer after Liverpool cooled their interest, but the rumors have gone quiet the past few months and there’s still rumors that Manchester United want him too. He’s probably asking for big wages for a 17 year old, which he also probably deserves. Don’t count your chickens, etc. This probably won’t be decided until July.
Grade if this transfer goes through: A. This is a no-brainer. While he’s untested at the Premier League level, Sessegnon is a future star, and the eventual long term successor to Danny Rose. There’s also the chance that as he ages and develops he turns into Gareth Bale 2.0. This is a huge get for Spurs if they can land him, and even if he starts out behind Rose and Davies, the club should do everything it can to make sure he’s wearing lilywhite by the start of next season.