The right wing back situation at Tottenham Hotspur is... well, complicated. Spurs have two players at the position — Emerson Royal, who was a summer 2021 purchase from Barcelona under former manager Nuno Espirito Santo, and Matt Doherty, purchased a year earlier under Jose Mourinho. However, neither has really cemented a permanent place under Antonio Conte.
Emerson in particular is a curious case. He was expected to play as a traditional right fullback in a back four under Nuno, but now finds himself in a much different wingback role where expectations are that he be able to push forward with much more urgency and involve himself in the offense. That’s not a perfect fit for his skill set and has led to some speculation that he could be sold for a more Conte-esque player.
Now, in a Spanish-language interview with CadenaSER (via 90min), Emerson was asked about reported interest in his services from Atletico Madrid. And interestingly, the player has confirmed that there has been contact.
“Yes, it has come to my attention that Atletico are interested in me. But now, I’m in a good moment at Tottenham. I don’t know what will happen in the future, only God knows. But I like that other teams are watching my football.”
And more than that, it seems there might also be some willingness there as well.
| Emerson Royal on Atlético Madrid: “I watch them, I have friends there. Lodi, Felipe, who played in Porto, now Cunha…”— Atletico Universe (@atletiuniverse) April 8, 2022
| Emerson when asked if he sees himself playing with Renan Lodi on the other side: “Well, I don’t know.”
That’s obviously not confirmation that he’s being sold this summer, but it is interesting. Matt Doherty has blossomed under Conte and seemingly has embraced what Conte asks from wingbacks at that position, to the extent that at present you wonder if Doherty isn’t now first choice. In a press conference yesterday, Conte made a point to talk about Doherty’s improvement from the time when Conte first took the reins at Spurs.
“[Doherty] is the typical player that is showing good improvement. If you remember very well, at the start he didn’t play a lot with me because at that moment I think he didn’t deserve to play. But then he worked really hard. He’s a really good guy. In every training session, you see the desire, the will to improve himself, the tactical and technical aspect. He’s got a great mentality. He’s strong.
“Many times when players don’t play a lot, they go down mentally. But he’s shown me to be strong, to stay there. He showed me, ‘I can do what you want, I am going to improve and when I am ready I want to play’. He showed me not with talking but with his attitude and his behaviour and for this reason he is playing, he is deserving to play and he is playing very well. He has great confidence and I am very happy for him, because this is a big example for the other players.”
It’s not to say that Emerson Royal isn’t a good player — I’ve long said that, while he’s put in some pretty poor performances at times this season, he’s not nearly as bad a player as some Tottenham fans like to pretend he is. That said, it does feel like, should Conte opt to stay at Spurs, right wing back is a position that could stand an upgrade. And Atletico Madrid would be a pretty good place for him to land. And my guess is that Spurs could probably recoup the £24m they paid for him .