As evident by the recent rumors that have linked him with a move away from Tottenham Hotspur this summer, Spurs are staring in the face of a future midfield without Mousa Dembele. That’s frightening enough for Spurs fans — Moose has been labelled a “genius” by Mauricio Pochettino for the way he carves through opposition midfields, and he’s been the engine that makes Spurs run for the better part of three seasons.
We don’t know yet if Moose will be around next season or not — he’s apparently assessing his options amid interest from Italy and China and will make a decision after this summer’s World Cup. Either way, Spurs are in a position now where they absolutely must identify and recruit a replacement.
We will no doubt be investigating and writing about no shortage of midfielders that are linked with Spurs over the next few weeks and months. One of the more exciting prospects that has popped up lately is 20-year old Guinean midfielder Amadou Diawara, who is coming off of a very nice season at Napoli. Jack Pitt-Brooke wrote in the Independent today that the Spurs coaching staff admires him, which makes him worth looking into.
Diawara is young, but he’s already making an impact in Napoli’s midfield, though mostly as Jorginho’s primary backup. He has two goals and one assist in 1200 minutes over all competitions, which doesn’t sound too impressive until you get a clearer picture of how he plays.
He’s very much in the midfield destroyer mold, but has a truly impressive passing ability and rarely gets dispossessed in midfield. The only football radar I could find on Twitter is from last season, but it gives you an idea of where his strengths lie: he is extremely adept at linking the defense to the attack, but does more of the unheralded grunt work in midfield. According to Understat he has a very high xGBuildup90 and xGChain90, meaning he’s involved in a lot of Napoli’s attacks when he plays, but he rarely gets into the box and scores even less frequently. Essentially, he may not get a whole lot of assists, but he will probably rack up the “hockey assists.”
That said, Diawara is the kind of player who loves to break lines and is very strong. If that makes him sound like a younger Victor Wanyama, you wouldn’t be wrong, but he has a greater passing range and excellent positional awareness for a player so young. At Napoli, he plays in Maurizio Sarri’s fluid 4-3-3 formation, and though he would probably thrive in a similar situation at Spurs, in talking with Michael Caley he feels as though Diawara would also do well in a pivot playing beside someone like Wanyama or Eric Dier.
Jorginho is clearly a better midfielder — and yes, before you say it, I’d rather have him too. But Jorginho will probably cost upwards of £50m, is already 26, and will most likely end up at a place such as Manchester City or Liverpool (he’s strongly linked to both). Diawara would probably come a lot cheaper due to his age — Transfermarkt rates him at £18m but I’d guess is closer to £25m — and is poised to make the leap from a promising midfielder to a truly great one. That would make him a pretty good transfer target for a Tottenham club that is looking for young, possibly undervalued talent that could thrive in Pochettino’s high-pressure system.
Strengthening the midfield has to be one of the top priorities for Spurs this summer. While a young player is unlikely to immediately do everything that Dembele currently does, Diawara would be a medium-risk/high-reward option that, given a little time, could develop into a world class player for Tottenham.