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Tottenham January transfer window primer: Talkin’ Goalkeepers

With Hugo Lloris on the decline, Spurs would be wise to invest in a new goalkeeper.

Olympique Marseille v Tottenham Hotspur: Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

We are continuing with the January transfer window primer series today, and this time the focus is on goalkeepers. Hugo Lloris has been between the sticks at Tottenham Hotspur for what feels like forever, and he’s been an extremely reliable option since he joined the club from Lyon in 2012. Hugo’s elite shot-stopping ability is what has established him as one of the best goalkeepers in the past decade, which includes his status as the French national team’s number one in that same period. However, Lloris has always had mistakes in his locker in large part due to lapses of concentration, and at times has shown some discomfort in having the ball at his feet and playing out of the back.

Under Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs were a team that dominated possession, pressed their opponents into turnovers and were rarely on the back foot. And while Lloris was asked often to play out the back under Pochettino, the mental errors were not as frequent as they are now given Spurs’ ability to keep the ball. As Spurs moved away from the Pochettino era and went through managerial campaigns of José Mourinho, Nuno Espírito Santo and, now, Antonio Conte, they have ultimately become more of a side that is predicated on being comfortable sitting in and soaking up pressure and hitting back on the counterattack. Because of this and perhaps due to an overall downturn in talent in defense since the prime of his career, Lloris has been on somewhat of a steady decline for years. And while he is still good for a spectacular game, his shortcomings combined with the fact that he is no longer making saves that many would expect him to make lead to an unfortunate conclusion: Spurs need to address the goalkeeping position this summer or perhaps in January if the right opportunity arises.

In Spurs’ final game before the World Cup break, they squeaked by Leeds 4-3. In all three of Leeds’ goals, Lloris should have made better efforts and perhaps even saved one or two of them. Just weeks prior, two decision-making mistakes led to Newcastle scoring two decisive goals. So it is not just a one-off unfortunately — It is becoming more and more apparent that Lloris has not only lost a step, his deficiencies are putting him in a position where Spurs are getting below-average play.

Hugo’s current contract runs through 2024, but despite a contract extension that was penned last January, Spurs should be aiming to sign a new long-term goalkeeper. It may be beneficial (depending on who they go after) to have Lloris to spell and even mentor Tottenham’s next man for the position, much like what Brad Friedel did for him. There seem to be a number of goalkeepers across Europe that are coming to the ends in their careers and the truth is that plenty of clubs have faced challenges in moving on from their No. 1s because the landing is not as soft to integrate other positions as it is for goalkeepers.

While other signings can come in and show themselves in different profiles or in different roles in a variety of formations, it is hard for teams to bring new signings at the goalkeeper position into the fold. Look no further than Inter Milan — at the moment they have a revolving door at the position, selecting Samir Handanović over youngster Andre Onana sometimes primarily out of respect to the Slovenian. There are examples at other clubs over the years, but because of Spurs’ financial acumen and how they have managed the books over the years, Spurs do not have the luxury to spend nearly $75 million on a goalkeeper like Chelsea did with Kepa Arrizabalaga.

However, Spurs are going to need to spend if they want a quality option at this position. And while Spurs could spend $40-50 million on an keeper, the reality is that the price tag will not look terrible if the player they get is a quality one and plays at the club for the span of two contracts. Let’s discuss some options in the market as well as some players that Spurs have been linked with by the rumor mill.

Jan Oblak, Atlético Madrid

Known in recent years as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Spurs have been linked with Oblak since the summer with reports indicating that the Slovakian is Conte’s and Paratici’s number one target for the position. First, Atléti could look to shop Oblak considering he is aging and that the club is in a bit of a tailspin at the moment just years after investing in some big-money moves.

However, Oblak is signed through 2028 so Spurs will certainly face some pushback from the La Liga side if their reported interest is solid. And while Oblak is certainly a name that would excite many, it needs to be said that he, like Lloris, is also on somewhat of a decline. His performances in the league this season have not been terrific, which is really the second-consecutive year where his statistics have been on a decline. He ranks below average in PSxG-GA, which is a measurement based on the likelihood of the goalkeeper saving attempted shots. Additionally, he is not a terrific passer of the ball either. There are a lot of similarities between Lloris and Oblak and while both are declining, it is concerning that Oblak’s decline is in its second-straight year despite being only 29.

Diogo Costa, Porto

In this list, Costa is certainly on the younger side with the potential to become one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Despite being 23 years old, Costa’s performances across in Europe this season and last have opened a lot of eyes. The consistency has not really been the same within the Primeira Liga, but he has made his money and gotten his name among the international scenes with his performances in the Champions League.

From a profile perspective, Costa has a lot of traits that embody the modern goalkeeper. He is comfortable on the ball, can assist in build-up play while also being an above-average shot-stopper. He would cost a lot of money, but there is potential in Costa in being a top-class goalkeeper. Signing Costa would certainly be a statement of intent by Spurs. However, the inconsistencies for Costa are somewhat concerning and could sway clubs from paying a huge price tag.

Unai Simón, Athletic Bilbao

Similar to Oblak, Simón is another household name in La Liga. He has gotten a lot of attention in recent years due to him being a primary goalkeeper option for the Spain national team and while he does not play for the best club side, Simón is certainly an expensive goalkeeper in the market. At 25 years old with a contract set to expire in 2025, Simón is currently in his fourth-consecutive year as the number-one option at Bilbao.

And while he is a household name at the position, he is another goalkeeper whose underlying numbers indicate poor form as well as garnering maybe unwarranted attention. His PSxG-GA figure is actually inferior to Oblak’s and his form has certainly seen a downtick from recent seasons.

Alban Lafont, Nantes

Lafont is one of the potential successors to France’s no. 1 jersey post Lloris, and he recently returned back to Ligue 1 after a loan spell at Fiorentina. While Lafont currently projects as Mike Maignan’s back-up at France, he certainly has a lot of potential. At 23, Lafont has been the primary starter for a Nantes side, who, despite returning to European play for the first time since 2002, have not been spectacular this season.

Lafont’s best attribute is his passing capability, something of which has become a prerequisite in the modern goalkeeper. For how Spurs play, having a goalkeeper who can play not only the simple passes but also more progressive ones can be very resourceful. On top of this, he is an above-average shot-stopper. More experience and game time may be needed out of Lafont before he moves up another level, but having Lloris around to mentor another young Frenchman could reap some benefits.

Giorgi Mamardashvili, Valencia

Another player Spurs have been linked with is the the Georgian who came over to Valencia just last year. Mamardashvili is a towering presence in goal at 6’6” and has garnered a lot of attention playing in a side that has been somewhat of a failure to launch under Gennaro Gattuso this season.

In his first season starting at the Mestalla Stadium. Mamardashvili has been among the league leaders in PSxG-GA and has done so despite facing a lot of shots. He is facing a lot of shots on target this season and has performed decently despite the young age. Signed through 2027, Mamardashvili would certainly be expensive but he does have a lot of potential and could benefit with the right move.

Illan Meslier, Leeds

When speaking about passing capability, Meslier not only excels in this area but he is also tasked at will to bring this element to his game regardless of it has been Marcelo Bielsa or Jesse Marsch on the touchline for Leeds over the past few years.

Similar to Lafont, Meslier is another young French keeper who has the talent and potential to evolve into playing at a higher level. The issue with Meslier is that he is seemingly almost always prone for an error — such was the case against Spurs a few weeks ago when he was unable to keep a Ben Davies strike from the back of the net. However, it is hard to get a true read on Meslier because of Leeds’ high-risk, high-reward style. Meslier would certainly cost a lot of money and there are a lot of unknowns with him that should engender Spurs to look elsewhere.

Robert Sánchez, Brighton

Out of the options on this list, Sánchez is certainly my choice to take over for Lloris. Of course, Brighton likely have no plans to sell him as he is one of their best assets but stranger things have happened and Spurs could potentially offer him the higher-level competition many professionals look for.

In the Premier League, Brighton have become adept, like Leicester before them, at finding gems and acquiring talent that is within their means while also keeping them competitive. Sánchez has become Brighton’s No. 1 seamlessly over the past few years and has been a vital player in the side for his ability to read the game and be an integral part of the Seagulls’ style of play. Sánchez is extremely comfortable on the ball and is a very good shot-stopper with his height and athleticism. Whereas Lloris is almost painfully left footed, Sánchez is comfortable with both so it makes sense why he is so adept at starting attacks and building up play. Sánchez would cost a lot of money, but he is a proven commodity in the league and would certainly be a coup for Conte and Fabio Paratici for both the now and the future.

Follow me on Twitter @RyanSRatty.