Tottenham Hotspur have been linked to an impressively large number of players in the transfer window over the past decade. The club’s status as one that is almost perpetually on the rise but without the resources to really make a push for the big-time players made it so that there were nearly always good players linked to the club, but those same factors worked against actually landing many of them.
You know a lot of the names, because they were players that fans really, REALLY wanted. Sometimes the club did too, but forever reason they just couldn’t get the signings over the line, or maybe the fan interest outstripped the club’s interest and it was never as much of a thing as what we all hoped for.
With the World Cup on hiatus until the quarterfinals and the summer transfer window kicking into gear, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the last decade and come up with a starting XI of players that Spurs almost signed... but didn’t. We talked it over extensively in the Carty Free writer’s room as a group, and came up with this list. We focused on players that either had demonstrably strong links, or that supporters really, really, REALLY wanted.
We call it the Tottenham Hotspur Almost XI.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane. And if we missed any, feel free to add your suggestions to the comments.
Goalkeeper: Carlos Kameni
OK, real talk, we had a hard time coming up with a solid keeper for this list, mostly because none of us could remember a time in the past decade when we really wanted a keeper target and didn’t actually sign them. So we went with Carlos Kameni, a Cameroonian keeper that Spurs had strong transfer ties to back in 2008. They ended up signing Gomes, who according to Bryan A. is still the best keeper we’ve ever had.
Right Back: Ricardo Pereira
Cast your mind back to last summer. Kyle Walker is off to Manchester City and Spurs need another right back. Porto’s Ricardo Pereira was the clear favorite of Tottenham fans both on here and in the writer’s room, but that deal fell apart after it was reported that Spurs didn’t want to pay his release clause of €37m. Tottenham signed Serge Aurier in August for £23m.
Center Backs: Hector Moreno, Mateo Musacchio
The Moreno and Musacchio rumors came during periods of transition for Tottenham’s back line as they tried to find a reliable partner for Jan Vertonghen. Spurs were reportedly interested in signing Moreno in January of 2015. A Mexican defender then playing for Espanyol, he was rehabilitating from breaking his leg in the World Cup. Mauricio Pochettino had coached him at Espanyol and liked him. It never worked out. Now 30, he’s bounced around a lot and is currently at Real Sociedad, but made Mexico’s World Cup roster this summer.
Villarreal’s Mateo Musacchio was looking like a done deal for a long time in the summer of 2014, but his transfer to Spurs fell apart due to third party ownership issues. He ended up playing the rest of the season for the Yellow Submarine and stayed there until being sold to AC Milan last summer. (Hey, maybe he’s available again?)
Left Back: Ryan Sessegnon
Too soon? Sessegnon was and is a future star in the Premier League, and Tottenham wanted him pretty desperately. They nearly got him for a song via a tribunal as an amateur player, but he opted to sign a pro contract with Fulham instead. Any chance of Spurs nabbing him probably died when Fulham won promotion to the Premier League by beating Aston Villa, and any successful bid for him would have to be astronomical.
Right Wing: Jay Rodriguez
J-Rod was known more for putting “the J. Rodriguez role” into the Spurs lexicon, as he had a very specific place in Mauricio Pochettino’s system at Southampton. Numerous players were linked to the “J-Rod Role” but plenty of Spurs fans would not have been sad to see Spurs sign the actual J-Rod. The whole rumor was pretty dumb, but Spurs apparently almost signed him for £15m in 2015 before he decided to extend his contract at Soton. Long live the J-Rod Role.
Central Midfielder: Joao Moutinho, Morgan Schneiderlin
The Andre Villas-Boas era was spectacular for “almost” signings, and no name was linked to Spurs more heavily than then-Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho. A favorite of AVB, he was famously close to signing for Spurs in 2012 before Porto screwed up the paperwork at the close of the window and the move never materialized. He was linked to Spurs for years after that, and the #MoutinhoByMidnight hashtag lives on in Carty Free Cappy lore. Moutinho eventually left Porto and is still playing for Monaco.
Morgan Schneiderlin looked like the perfect midfielder for Mauricio Pochettino when Poch moved from Southampton to Tottenham Hotspur. Poch had turned Schneiderlin into a real force in the press, enough that he wanted to bring Schneiderlin to north London to do the same thing to Spurs. Unfortunately, Morgan also caught the eye of Manchester United, who ended up signing him in summer of 2015 for £25m. He played a lot under Louis van Gaal that season, but was left to rot on the bench when Jose Mourinho took over. He is now at Everton and never really regained his form that he had while under Pochettino.
Left Wing: Stuart Downing
Back in 2008, one of Harry Redknapp’s top targets was reportedly Middlesbrough’s Stuart Downing. The rumors were pretty hilarious, with a Telegraph report saying that Redknapp tried to offer a player exchange of Hossam Ghaly, Gilberto and Adel Taarabt for Downing, but Middlesbrough — then managed by Gareth Southgate! — said no. Middlesbrough wanted some young guy named Gareth Bale instead.
Striker: Leandro Damiao, Saido Berahino
Here’s the good stuff. No striker was more coveted in the years between 2011 and 2013 than Internacional’s Brazilian phenom Leandro. Spurs fans were DESPERATE to sign him, as the fan feeling around the club was that the thing Spurs really need to kick things on to the next level was one really good top-level striker. I don’t know how many articles we wrote about Damiao at Carty Free during that time, but it was a LOT. In the process, Leandro became the archetypal and mythic Tottenham line-leader — THE striker, if you will. Spurs offered £15m for him, which was pretty staggering for Spurs back then, but the deal never materialized. Leandro was also reportedly close to signing for Napoli in 2013, though sponsorship issues scuttled that deal as well. Aurelio de Laurentiis said that then-Napoli manager Rafa Benitez wanted to sign Leandro instead of Gonzalo Higuain. It’s probably just as well — the interest for him fell off a cliff soon afterwards and he’s still plying his trade in Brazil for Santos, though he’s been on loan for each of the past three years. Now 28, he’s never scored more than 9 goals in a season since 2014.
Ah, the long, protracted saga of Saido “Little Bear” Berahino. In the Year of Our Lord 2015, Spurs wanted him on the back of a 20 goal, 6 assist season as a 21 year old forward. West Brom refused to sell. Spurs offered a lot of money for him. Then-Baggies chairman Jeremy Peace told Spurs to bugger off, even after Berahino put in a transfer request and threatened to sit out. This went on for multiple transfer windows until Spurs finally got fed up and pulled the plug. Once on the cusp of the England squad, Berahino’s star fell quickly. West Brom finally sold him to Stoke City this past summer — he had zero league goals and one assist in just over 1000 minutes of action.
Eldin Jakopovic, Mario Götze, Bernard, Willian, Xherdan Shaqiri, Loïc Remy, Michy Batshuayi