Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Tottenham Hotspur are apparently interested in signing Adrien Rabiot.
I know. I know! It’s like Groundhog Day except with a lot more swearing in French. Normally I’d be appending this to the Batcountry section and we’d all be having a good laugh, except for one thing: it’s Gary Jacob writing in the Times of London, and he’s not a journalist you casually dismiss.
So let’s unpack this a bit. Jacob writes that Rabiot, whose Juventus contract expires this summer, wants to move to the Premier League as soon as possible, and has made that rather explicitly clear to the Juventus brass. Rabiot’s mother-agent (“momager”) Veronique has offered her son’s services to both Tottenham and Arsenal, and Juventus have signaled that a bid of £13.5m would be enough to send him packing to North London next month.
(In that same article, Jacob says that Spurs are likely going to send Djed Spence off on loan in January, and are targeting a CB, MF, and attacker next month, which is also interesting but not the point of this story.)
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why in the world would we spend £13.5m on an entitled French midfielder whom we’ve been linked to forever, when his contract expires in just a few months and whose “momager” rejected a hypothetical move for Spurs a few years ago because Tottenham “wasn’t a big club”? Both Rabiots have something of a history of causing drama, though that hasn’t prevented him from ending up at some of the best clubs in Europe over his career. Plus, he’s 27 now. What in the world?
Well. None of that is wrong. In fact, it was my initial reaction as well. Buuuuuuuuut, considering the Jacob source (he was the first to break the Yves Bissouma purchase last summer) and upon further reflection, I could be talked into this. Yes, £13m is a lot of money for a guy who would be free in six months. However, it’s not THAT much money, especially for a rich club like Spurs. He’s currently making about £115k/wk at Juventus, and even if you give him a modest pay raise it’s well within Spurs’ budget.
As a player, Rabiot’s effectively not much different in playing style from any of Spurs’ other current central midfielders — a hard-working, good passing, box-to-box willing runner. He plays as the deepest midfielder in either a 2 or 3 man midfield, is defensively solid, and excellent in possession. He can also drift wide and play on the left side of midfield if needed. The difference is that Rabiot’s probably at least slightly better at all of the skills Conte likes in his midfielders than anyone else at the club right now. He could slot in fairly comfortably alongside any of Spurs’ existing CMs and be a plus-add, and would give Antonio Conte additional options and rotation in the second half of the season.
And honestly, Rabiot’s been good this season! I watched him in the World Cup and, international football caveats aside, he was pretty impressive for France. I didn’t watch him thinking “Hmm, he’d be great for Tottenham” because look man I know my history with this dude and his mom, but there’s no question in my mind he’d take to Conte’s tactics like a fish to water.
If Spurs or another club don’t sign him in January, he’ll sign somewhere else in June and likely for astronomical wages, which makes it less likely that he’d end up at Spurs this summer. Can’t you see him as a high-wage free agent signing at Manchester United or Newcastle? I sure can. If you’re Tottenham you don’t want to commit a massive outlay of cash on a 27-year old who’s likely heading for the last big contract of his career, but spending a relatively small fee now in order to land him on reasonable wages before a summer wage bidding war where Spurs are on less firm financial ground makes a weird kind of sense. It would certainly make Juventus happey, and Rabiot would definitely improve Tottenham’s midfield.
Also, there’s a certain amount of irony in Veronique changing her tune on Little Adrien coming to Tottenham after she/they rejected Spurs back in 2019. And if you’re the sort who kind of enjoys messy drama, buddy, this is the Spurs midfielder for you.
Look, this is far from a done deal. Spurs have had some good luck signing Juventus want-aways since Fabio Paratici arrived and there’s no question Spurs have been admirers of Rabiot for a long time now. There are plenty of good reasons (stated above) why fans might not want this to happen. I get it! But over the course of writing this article I think I’ve just talked myself into thinking that it if it does happen, it might just turn out to be pretty okay. Bring it on.