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, what we call 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.
Today, we are taking a look at Manchester United attacker Anthony Martial.
Name: Anthony Joran Martial
Team: Manchester United
Nationality: French (Massy, Essonne, France)
League: English Premier League
Primary position: Left Wing
Other positions: Pick a spot in the attacking band and he can play it.
Spurs supporters are no doubt familiar with Anthony Martial. Just three seasons ago, it seemed that Tottenham were in pole position to land the then-Monaco attacker, but instead found itself in the familiar position of being used as a bargaining chip for a new contract. Shortly thereafter, that contract was used by Monaco to procure a £54m transfer fee from the English giants. His time since then has been a roller coaster of emotion.
Martial, still just 22 years of age, has shown he can play at the highest level with some of the best players in the world. His initial move to United was seen by many as a bit too early in his career, but the French International promptly shut everyone up by scoring three goals and bagging an assist in his first three matches with the Red Devils. Remember, this was Louis van Gaal broken as hell United too, which makes his offensive output early on more impressive.
Martial’s biggest asset is his versatility across the attacking band. He started out as an out-and-out striker but found himself moved around to maximize attacks and to ensure that players like Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney could get time in at the top of the attack. Martial took it in stride as he still started 31 league matches and made a whopping 56 appearances overall that season across all competitions.
Martial is not afraid to take on defenders, and while I normally post up a highlight video here and pick a few specific times to watch, most of this video is him making defenders look like youth academy players with wonderful dribbling, clever flicks and solid passing.
In an attack such as Mauricio Pochettino’s where players can weave in and out of each other’s positions, a player such as Martial is invaluable as he is basically plug-and-play in any of four positions and seems to have a battery that just doesn’t quit.
Why is he available?
A number of reasons, but mainly because United just loves to buy players. Martial first got ticked off at the club when they brought in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and gave him the #9 kit without even consulting him. While some people might look at that and go “Who cares?” a number can mean a lot more than other things, and we all know that the #9 and #10 kits hold a great importance in this sport more than anything. In this case, it was really the lack of communication that irked Martial. United decided to just up and give Zlatan the number and didn’t bother making a phone call thinking “Oh, Anthony has this number. He may want to keep it.”
The other reason is that Martial’s usage and numbers have all gone down since Jose Mourinho took over at Old Trafford. Martial’s first season had 18 goals and 11 assists, which is solid output for a 20 year old playing in one of the most difficult leagues in the world. In the 2016-17 season, Martial’s numbers all dropped. He only played 1500 minutes in the EPL and managed just 8 goals and 8 assists in 42 appearances.
Last season seemed to be the nail in the coffin for his United career. Once again, the Frenchman managed just over 1500 minutes in the league, and while he made 8 appearances in the Champions League, he had just over 300 minutes and was primarily a second half substitute. His numbers improved slightly to 11 goals and 9 assists, but he constantly found himself as odd man out while Romelu Lukaku took the bulk of the starts up top and eventually found himself behind Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and others. While he’s been hesitant to say that he wants out now, he hasn’t signed a new contract. His current one expires next summer.
Likely price: £60m
Chances that the valuation is wrong: Probably pretty close to spot on. Even with just a year remaining on his deal, United know the player that they have and will still hold out for the highest fee knowing that big clubs will come calling.
Team’s willingness to sell: United haven’t come out and said he’s not for sale, and in today’s game that’s about as good as saying you can make a bid. The drama between Tottenham and United is that the Red Devils have made it clear they want Toby Alderweireld on their club next year, but Daniel Levy is playing his usual hardball and has stated a swap deal between the clubs would make it much easier to deal with the loss of Alderweireld.
Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: Square peg, square hole. He can play across the entire attacking band, though primarily he’s a striker and winger. This is a guy that solves a couple of problems as Spurs would get a proven goal scorer at the top level to spell Kane as well as a versatile player in multiple positions. You need depth to win, and he’s more than just quality depth.
Possibility he ends up at Spurs: Low to moderate. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s episode of “As The Transfer Window Turns” because the Martial saga isn’t going to end soon. Juventus are said to be in for him, as well as PSG, Bayern Munich and Barcelona. While I doubt he ends up back in France or in Catalonia, Juventus and Bayern are real landing spots for him. As much as I hate to sell a player of Toby’s quality to a rival, I would do this swap deal in a heartbeat the moment United said “Okay.”
Grade if this transfer goes through: A. Depth, quality, and versatility in the attacking band nails this transfer.