Yesterday we reported on Blackburn’s apparent interest in Tottenham Hotspur U23 striker Dilan Markanday, initially couched as a loan. There were some of you, however, who expressed skepticism in the comments that this wasn’t in fact the precursor to a Blackburn approach for a full transfer.
Well, you appear to have been right. This morning, our old friend Lyall Thomas reports in Sky Sports’ transfer tracker that Blackburn and Spurs are close to an agreement that would see Markanday head out to the Championship on a permanent basis.
Blackburn are close to agreeing a deal to sign Tottenham winger Dilan Markanday.
Spurs had offered the U23 star a new contract but he wants to play regular first-team football.
A number of Championship clubs are willing to give him that chance including Blackburn.
Stoke, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest have also shown interest. Markanday is into the final six months of his current Spurs deal.
Dan Kilpatrick chimed in later with some additional details, including that Markanday could head to Blackburn for as low as an initial £500k fee.
#thfc Per @SkySportsLyall, Blackburn & Spurs close to agreeing permanent deal for Dilan Markanday. Fee around £500k up front but could rise to over £1m with add-ons & includes significant sell-on clause. Deal could be announced next week. @standardsport— Dan Kilpatrick (@Dan_KP) January 14, 2022
In the meantime, Spurs appear to be trying to fill Markanday’s role in the U23s with a new striker — Ramsgate forward Joshua Ajayi, who is apparently going to be on trial at the club with a view towards a professional contract.
Excl: Tottenham have invited 19-year-old Ramsgate forward Joshua Ajayi (son of boxing trainer Tunde Ajayi) to train with club next week. The teenager, who left Crystal Palace in 2020, has 17 goals this season at Step 4. Stevenage also keen. More in my column on Monday… #THFC— Ryan Taylor (@RyanTaylorSport) January 8, 2022
It’s tempting to view what’s happened with Markanday as something of a failure in how Spurs have developed their young academy talent. Over the past few years we’ve seen a number of bright stars from Spurs’ academy and reserves leave the club for what amounts to a pittance over concerns that their pathway to the first team has been blocked.
That’s not necessarily an outrageous thing — their pathway would be blocked at a lot of top clubs’ academy setups and a club like Spurs won’t be able to bring every promising youngster through to the first team. That’s just not how things work.
But Spurs have until recently seemingly been reluctant to send their promising young players out on loan in order to gain experience and transfer value, especially under Mauricio Pochettino, and even more reluctant to give them first team minutes before selling them for a healthy profit later. There have been some notable successes — Oliver Skipp is an obvious one, you could argue Japhet Tanganga is another one. Tom Carroll was sold for £5m in 2017, Ryan Mason for £13m in 2016, etc. The club is still very high on Dane Scarlett (who has yet to be loaned out) and Troy Parrott.
But for every success there have been players like Keenan Bennetts, Dennis Cirkin, Reo Griffiths, Luke Amos, and more — solid talents but who got precious few first team or loan opportunities and eventually were sold or let go either for free or under value. And there’s also someone like Cameron Carter-Vickers, whom the club should’ve moved on for a small profit years ago but who is somehow still kicking around the club at age 24, perpetually on loan with no real interest in Spurs’ perceived value.
Tottenham youth watcher and prominent Spurs podcaster Windy outlined this perspective this morning on Twitter — it’s not necessarily about promoting these players to the first team. It’s that Spurs have seemingly mismanaged these players at the end of their Spurs careers and left a ton of potential money on the table.
You might not care about the academy, you might think none of the players are good enough, you might not care that he’s going. But I see this as a case of us losing (another) £xm because of poor planning and decision-making. That’s £xm we could spend on first team improvements.— Chris Miller (@WindyCOYS) January 14, 2022
Windy’s not wrong here, but I think it’s more complicated than this. Look — youth development is hard. Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle and end up with a Harry Kane or an Oliver Skipp, but most of the time you don’t. Players don’t develop at the same rate and sometimes they stall or even flame out entirely. The fact that Spurs have been able to bring through players like Kane, Mason and Skipp through the academy and into the first team is an outstanding thing, but probably has skewed a lot of Spurs supporters’ views on academy players in general.
That includes this blog! Even hyped players like Parrott and Scarlett may not turn out to be as high-level as people once thought or want — based on his current performance on loan Parrott may top out at Championship level. Heck, we once thought Tom Carroll was going to be Xavi but after leaving Swansea he’s been kicking around the Championship having a solid career in the second division into his 30s. That doesn’t make them failures — there’s a ton of value in churning out a few 2nd or 3rd division level talents every year.
These young players have also, in recent years, woken up to the fact that they have agency in their futures as well. From this perspective, what they’ve done by running their contracts down is smart — it gives them the only measure of control they possess, the right to leave for something they think may be better. That also forces the club’s hand in what they can ask for any other clubs that might be interested in buying.
So in that sense a small fee for Markanday in exchange for a bunch of escalators if he comes good, a healthy sell-on clause, and possibly a buy-back option isn’t the worst thing in the world. As I understand it that’s similar to deals Spurs arranged for Amos, Cirkin, and Edwards when they left the club — it’s exchanging immediate money for a more long-term bet that the player will eventually come good, basically an extended hedge although Spurs no longer have any control over their future development.
I’m trying to balance my frustration that Spurs are ready to dump Markanday without giving him a real look in the first team with a more measured look at the academy and why things are shaking out the way they are. Spurs may not have gotten millions for Markanday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve entirely messed up.