Here comes another wild transfer rumor, springing from the wilds of batcountry like Athena from the forehead of Zeus. Today’s edition comes from Bild (and also Kicker), which claims that Tottenham Hotspur have a £7m offer on the table for FC Köln’s 24-year old German playmaker Leonardo Bittencourt. And while it has its problems, it might be plausible if you cock your head and squint.
So let’s get this out of the way first: Köln were baaaaaaaaaaaad this season. So bad that they were just relegated out of the Bundesliga, and that’s probably the seed of this rumor. Like most bad, relegated sides, Köln is probably going to lose most of their top and young talent to other clubs, if they’re not keen on playing in the German second division.
That brings us to Bittencourt. He was a German U21 international, but doesn’t have a full national cap yet. Splitting his time between left and central attacking midfield for Köln this season, he has five goals and three assists in just under 1900 minutes in the Bundesliga. He also had a significant injury that caused him to miss two months in early spring, but he’s a regular starter when healthy. However, all but one of his goals have come in the past three games, including a brace against Freiburg this past weekend.
Understat tells a similarly underwhelming story — an xG90+xA90 of .31 this season, which is pretty anemic despite the injury. It’s worth noting, however, that his assist and pass numbers were significantly better last season (0.74 xG90+xA90, xGChain of 0.89) when Köln weren’t quite so terrible. Either way, his stats make him look like much more of an assist guy than a scorer, late scoring aside.
Here’s where it gets slightly interesting: Bild is reporting that Bittencourt has a relegation release clause of €8m in his contract, which means that he could come to a new club almost stupidly cheap. Toss away his poor season this year and you have a fairly young player who might be decent attacking midfield depth. He’s not going to set anyone’s hair on fire, but he’d be at least a passable depth option, and for not a whole lot of money.
Bild is basically the German Daily Mail, so let’s not put the cart in front of the horse here. There’s plenty of reasons to think that this is just the German press putting 1 and 2 together for a player who’s too good for the 2. Bundelsiga, though it’s worth noting that there are quotes from Köln manager Armin Veh who says he is resigned to losing him this summer to another club. Bittencourt is also linked to Hoffenheim and Monaco.
I’m not all that convinced by this rumor, but the price certainly is right. Bittencourt isn’t a guy to write home to your mother about, but at just over £7m he’d maybe be worth a flyer for additional midfield depth. Still, it’ll probably take a little bit more than a couple off offhand “Spurs are tracking him” reports to make me think this is a thing.