When Tottenham Hotspur purchased for Steven Bergwijn in January 2020, it was the type of signing that the club have become accustomed to making in recent years. Without the financial capital of a club like Manchester City or even Chelsea, Spurs have shown a history of spending on players who are considered potential breakout stars, players ready to make a leap in their career instead of investing it on proven players who would cost a premium.
The best example of this is Son Heung-min, who was purchased ahead of the 2015-16 season from Bayer Leverkusen. The purchases of Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen, both from Ajax, are also examples of this theory of spending money on players with the hope they make “the leap.”
However, in recent years, these types of moves have not worked out for Spurs. A prime example is Bergwijn’s tenure at Spurs, which really could be entirely summed up as the cliché of ‘failure to launch’. In Bergwijn’s defense, his inability to take that next step at Spurs is not entirely his fault.
Purchased at 22, Bergwijn was truly a standout at PSV Eindhoven, excelling on the pitch without a ton of talent surrounding him. Spurs got a first-hand viewing of Bergwijn in the 2018-19 Champions League group stage when PSV, guided by Bergwijn and Chucky Lozano (now thriving at Napoli) played Spurs tough in both fixtures, one of which ended in a draw.
Bergwijn’s mixture and blend of speed, power and end threat showcased at PSV prompted Spurs, flushed with a bit more financial capital at the time, to spend a decent amount of money for a player that had only played in his home country over the course of his career. Immediately at Spurs, there was a thinking that the Dutchman could fill the void in the forward position across from Son with a bit more consistency in comparison to Lucas Moura. Stevie’s debut goal against City seemed to confirm this this argument, but a combination of injuries, a lack of run of games and a tricky cast of individuals in the managerial role has put Bergwijn’s Tottenham career in a tailspin.
Under José Mourinho, Bergwijn was tasked with transitioning from a team in the Netherlands that was predicated on often attacking to a team much more focused on blocking and “walling” the opposition. Unable to gain trust from Mourinho, Bergwijn became much more a squad player and was largely one who would play in the “less meaningful” European campaign games. That trend continued all the way through Nuno Espírito Santo’s short managerial career. Bergwijn started, and disappointed, in the following horrid Tottenham losses in Europe:
- Antwerp 1 - Tottenham 0 (2020)
- Rennes 2 - Tottenham 2 (2021)
- Vitesse 1 - Tottenham 0 (2021)
Again, all of this is not entirely Bergwijn’s fault, but here we are — nearly two years into his Tottenham career and Bergwijn, now at 25 years of age, has just 4 goals for Spurs. Despite this, Bergwijn still has his suitors across Europe, most recently being linked to a move to Ajax in the upcoming transfer window.
It feels that Bergwijn is at the crossroads of his tenure at Spurs. Now on manager No. 3 (four if you count Ryan Mason) in Antonio Conte, Bergwijn has yet to get going and a move away could just be what is needed for both parties. In my assessment, I was curious to see how Bergwijn would fit into a Conte philosophy where the patterns of play and movements are much more drilled into place. To me, having more instruction and getting rid of “thinking” on the pitch would do well for a player like Bergwijn who is quite adept technically. However, due to knocks that have kept him out, it now appears that Bergwijn is expendable as Conte looks to refresh and ultimately turn over the squad with the January transfer window looming.
In recent weeks, with January just under three weeks away, Spurs have been rumored to letting both Bergwijn and Dele Alli go out on loan. Something to note here is that both players have not had a good run of form in quite some time, so Spurs opting to loan the duo instead of entirely selling is a gamble that they are hoping pays off for their investment. Currently at the club, neither player looks threatening to enter a group of XI players that have featured as starters for both Nuno and now Conte.
So for either player to get to good form, Spurs are betting on Bergwijn and Dele to be loaned out with the hopes of them getting a good run of games while also being in situations where they can be given a fresh start. Should Bergwijn go to Ajax and Dele head off to Newcastle, as reports have surfaced that the Magpies would be interested in a loan-to-purchase deal should they avoid relegation, the hope is that both parties, Spurs and each respective player, would benefit from the change of sceneries.
In an ideal world, both players go out on loan, impress and then return from their loan spells to assert themselves more into the first team a la Jesse Lingard (and we have seen how that has worked out or lack thereof at Manchester United). However, both Bergwijn and Dele have been given plenty of chances already. So, the decision for this duo to potentially go out on loan has more to do with Tottenham looking to eventually cut ties together and not with the thinking of them coming back into the fold.
As always with Daniel Levy, Spurs will be looking to get the best deal possible, as they rightfully should. Now with Conte and Fabio Paratici in the conversation, and Tottenham’s potential and possible quest for finishing in the Top 4, Spurs need those potential suitors to cement their interest. Ultimately, it is best for all parties involved.
Follow me on Twitter @RyanSRatty.