You don’t have to put in a ton of effort when discussing Tanguy Ndombele before you run head-first into a sea of narrative. The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, Spurs record signing, has been a divisive figure among supporters, with as many fans praising his obvious talent on the ball as there are those criticizing what they perceive to be a pattern of underachievement relative to his transfer fee.
What’s rare is actually hearing from the man himself, which makes a Sunday interview with the Telegraph’s Mike McGrath (£) instantly interesting. In that exclusive interview, Ndombele denies that he had serious beef with Jose Mourinho’s managerial style, talks about his preferred position, and credits a meeting with chairman Daniel Levy — chronicled on the Amazon “All or Nothing” series — as a turning point in his Spurs career.
“If a chairman is seeing something that he is not happy with it’s normal that he wants to speak to the player about that. It was a good meeting, I listened to what he had to say and he listened to me too. Perhaps if I’m still at Tottenham today it’s thanks to that meeting.”
Tanguy has alternately found himself in and out of the Tottenham side in recent years and under various Spurs managers — preferred by Pochettino (before an injury sidelined him), maligned and then embraced by Jose Mourinho, sidelined by Ryan Mason, and now — finally — establishing himself under Nuno Espirito Santo in the 10 position behind Harry Kane. Ndombele suggested that his current position as a more advanced midfielder isn’t necessarily his preferred one, but made it clear that he’s perfectly comfortable there and is willing to play wherever he is needed and wanted.
“I wouldn’t say, necessarily, that No 10 is my best position. I’m happy to play and adapt to whatever position I’m played in. What I like is if I’m playing in a team and we’re taking risks with the ball.
“When we’re not playing with the ball so much then that’s harder for me. I always like to be on the ball and have possession. But, six, eight, 10, I’ve played them all. It’s true that 10 puts me closer to goal, but I’m happy to play in any position.
“I’m someone who always like to be on the ball. But at the end of the day, as a team, you can’t always have the ball and you just have to bear in mind that running after the ball doesn’t mean you don’t play once you get it. In general terms, I’m also someone who likes to chase down and win the ball.”
A lot has been written about the relationship between Tanguy and former Spurs manager Jose Mourinho, which from afar appeared to be a rather rocky one. Mourinho’s confrontational style was such that Ndombele was personally called out for his performances by Jose in front of the media. But Ndombele implied that, contrary to previous reports, he didn’t have that big of an issue with Mourinho’s managerial style.
“I am quite happy for people to tell the truth like that about me. That type of management, I’m fine with. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It is true that it was hard at the start with Mourinho but then, over time, we got on much better and the relationship worked much better.
“With any manager, if I don’t like how I’m treated, I’ll say so. At the end of the day each manager is going to have their own style.
“Jose Mourinho is someone who has a hard style of management, but he’s always about the club. But Nuno [Espirito Santo] is a really nice guy but he’s a bit quieter and keeps himself to himself. They’re two very different people.”
His quiet nature and his lack of comfort with the English language means that for many Ndombele is something of an enigma, so it’s refreshing to actually hear some insight into his personality using his own words. It’s not much, but it’s something.