We haven’t written about Juan Foyth. The 19-year old Argentinian center back has been linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur from his current club, Estudiantes de la Plata, for a few weeks now, but I’ve resisted doing a write-up on him for a number of reasons, not least of which because he’s a complete unknown.
If you’ve been following Tottenham’s transfer windows for any length of time then you know that Spurs are known as a “stalking horse” club for players and their agents. They’re not quite at the top tier of English football, but they’re a solidly run club that some agents see as a “stepping stone” for their clients. Got a footballer client who wants a better deal with his current club? Link ‘em to Spurs. Want a move to a bigger club but they’re dragging their feet in negotiations? A well-placed anonymous source that says that Spurs are interested in signing them might kick-start stalled talks. It happens quite a lot.
So when a 19 year old unknown Argentinian wonderkid gets linked to Tottenham in the foreign media, I usually wait for a more concrete source or two before writing it up. However, a few recent reports, including one out of Argentina, have made me wonder if there isn’t something more here. Tom Collomosse in the Evening Standard suggests that Spurs could view Foyth as a “star of the future.” The Argentina paper El Dia states that Estudiantes is flat broke and needs to raise over £2m to pay off a debt to the Argentina Football Association, with failure to do so resulting in a transfer restriction and a 50% reduction in TV broadcast proceeds. That fee is likely to come from the sale of their prime asset, Juan Foyth.
El Dia states that former Chelsea & United footballer and current Estudiantes chairman Juan Sebastian Veron has recently flown to London to discuss the transfer of Foyth to Spurs to play under compatriot Mauricio Pochettino. We know that Spurs are in the position where they are on the lookout for underrated young talent that they can develop into Premier League stars. Early indications suggest that Juan Foyth may be that kind of player. There were even quotes from Foyth to an Argentina radio station that suggested he knew his agent was working out a deal with a Premier League club.
So what do we know about Foyth? Frankly, not a whole lot. We know he’s 19, plays primarily central defense, and measures at just under 6 feet. He broke into his club’s first team on the back of some strong performances for Argentina’s U20 side last season, and played in seven matches for Estudiantes. He also played 90 minutes in all three of Argentina’s group stage matches in the U20 World Cup this summer, and was one of the few bright spots for Argentina in that competition as they crashed out in the group stages (including a 3-0 loss to champions England).
Foyth is comfortable with the ball at his feet, is a good passer, and emulates Mats Hummels and Gerard Pique. Sam Tighe did a really nice write-up on him and his abilities for Bleacher Report, where he called him “the Argentine John Stones.” That article also illustrates Foyth’s propensity to do aggressive dribbles upfield out of the back line, which sounds neat but also could give certain Spurs fans Vlad Chiriches flashbacks.
But there are still problems with the reporting. According to Sky Sports’ Lyall Thomas, even the supposed visit of Veron to London for talks is now under dispute and may be due to a bad translation of some of Foyth’s comments to Radio Continental.
Appears Juan Foyth has been widely misquoted re: a move to #THFC. He did not say his agent + Veron travelling for a meeting.... (1/2)— Lyall Thomas (@SkySportsLyall) July 9, 2017
Foyth says he read that on social media but has "not been told anything about that." Denies he has spoken to Poch. (2/3)— Lyall Thomas (@SkySportsLyall) July 9, 2017
Foyth to Coninental: "No, no. I have never spoken with Pochettino or anyone at Tottenham." Does say he would like to play in Europe.— Lyall Thomas (@SkySportsLyall) July 9, 2017
There are also potential hurdles relating to a work permit. Under the UK’s current rules, since Foyth has yet to earn a senior cap for Argentina there’s very little chance that he would be eligible for one. Tottenham would need to apply for an exception, and it’s not clear whether he would qualify for a permit, though we could surmise that if Spurs are serious about the transfer that means that he would more than likely gain approval from the work permit committee.
So we still don’t really know whether Spurs are really interested in Foyth. Spurs don’t often talk about young player signings, so we may or may not get an official announcement if the deal goes through.
With a fee that could range between £5-8m, Foyth isn’t likely to break the bank, but nor should he be counted on as a Tottenham contributor immediately. If he does arrive, he’ll be joining a crowded center back corps that (currently) includes Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Kevin Wimmer, and Cameron Carter-Vickers. If he’s that talented he could potentially challenge CCV for some cup or rotation minutes over the course of the season, but it’s also just as likely that he gets thrown into the U21 development squad for a season or two to learn the ways of English football. Foyth is almost certainly a project: a low-risk punt on a player who Spurs have identified as potentially a very good prospect. We shouldn’t expect him to contribute immediately.
We should expect Spurs to go after a few players like Foyth every season: young guns who might be good or who eventually might not work out. There are significant questions as to whether or not Spurs actually are interested in him, but as fans we should probably be pleased that we’re linked to these kinds of players. Not all flyers are going to turn out to be as good as Dele Alli, but there are plenty of reasons to go after young, untested talent with a high ceiling. Hopefully Foyth is one of those guys, and hopefully we’ll find out soon whether Spurs will bring him to north London.