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 next: Hoffenheim wingback Jeremy Toljan
Name: Jeremy Toljan
Age: 22 (23 in August)
Primary position: Right Wingback
Can also play: Right Back, Left Back, Left Wingback
Jeremy Toljan was a contributor to manager wunderkind Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim side that surprised everyone by finishing fourth in the Bundesliga last season. (So we could meet them in the Champions League this season.) Toljan started 14 times in the Bundesliga and made six substitute appearances last season.
What is intriguing about him is his versatility—something we all know Poche values. He played as a right and left wingback last season in Hoffenheim’s 3-5-2 system which bears a notable resemblance to the 3-5-2 we settled on for much of the second half of the season last year.
It’s worth taking a bit more time to look at Nagelsmann as a manager. His playing career ended at age 20 while he was playing for Augsburg’s second team. His manager immediately moved him into scouting, which was his start working in management. Here’s the fun bit: His reserve team manager at Augsburg was a certain Thomas Tuchel, who has since become famous for his work at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund.
His philosophy also seems to line up well with Tuchel’s: “I like to attack the opponents near their own goal because your own way to the goal is not as long if you get the ball higher up.” That also sounds very like Mauricio Pochettino’s philosophy.
Moreover, Nagelsmann seems to have a similar emphasis on belief, saying that management is 30% tactics and 70% social competence. “Every player is motivated by different things and needs to be addressed accordingly. At this level, the quality of the players at your disposal will ensure that you play well within a good tactical set-up – if the psychological condition is right.”
Nagelsmann also has an impressive record of developing talent: He worked with Roberto Firmino before the Brazilian moved to Liverpool. He also coached Kevin Volland before his move to RBL and two of his stars from last season, Niklas Sule and Sebastian Rudy, are now at Bayern Munich.
Obviously this is all more about Nagelsmann than it is Toljan, but there is a lot here that suggests that Toljan could settle into the team quickly, thanks to his experience playing with someone like Pochettino.
Likely price: £3m
Chances that the valuation is wrong: Well, he’s a fast, athletic wingback able to play on both sides. He should cost more, especially in this market. But here’s the key (and the thing that makes me think this deal will happen): His contract ends next summer. If Hoffenheim is going to sell, they need to do it now or risk losing him on a free in 12 months.
Team’s willingness to sell: Bild says they are willing to sell but... well, it’s Bild. That said, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if Hoffenheim would entertain offers for a reserve wingback entering the final year of his contract. They could play him more this year, hope he signs an extension, and try to sell him in 3-4 years for far more money. But if he doesn’t develop, the extension could represent a huge waste of money. So there is at least some incentive for them to consider selling.
Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: Given that the only experienced senior right back on the books right now is Kieran Trippier, Toljan will obviously fit in at the club if only to fill the backup right back role. (He’s actually 2.5 years older than Kyle Walker-Peters as well so this isn’t really something that should hurt Walker-Peters’ long-term prospects at the club.) That said, Trippier is not fast and struggles to beat his man in a 1-on-1 situation. So it is possible that Toljan will come into the side and challenge the English right back right away.
Possibility he ends up at Spurs: Certainly it is possible. His contract is running down, he looks like a Poche player, and he fills an obvious need at the club. Obviously transfers are complicated and this is hardly a sure thing. But on a basic level the move makes a ton of sense, particularly given the price and Toljan’s upside as a prospect.
Grade if this transfer goes through: B+