Writer’s note: This article was originally intended to discuss five wingback options for Spurs — one of them being Ivan Perišić. It was written before today’s news. In the event talks break down with the Croatian, here are a few different LWB options Spurs could look at.
Even before the news of the £150 million cash injection, it was known that Tottenham Hotspur were going to be in the market for a couple of new wingbacks to enhance Antonio Conte’s preference for dynamic wingback play. The new ENIC cash, along with revenue from Champions League football, means money will be there for Spurs to splash around to improve at key positions. One of those positions happens to be the left wingback spot.
In recent seasons, Spurs’ attacks have been heavily initiated on the left side of the pitch, in large part due to Son Heung-min’s influence as well as the lack of consistent options on the right. Under Conte, Spurs’ patterns were less focused on individual play and instead more predicated on getting creativity from the system itself. And when Conte switched the team’s style of play to a back three with forward wingback play, it felt like the squad had decent answers for that left wing role in both Sergio Reguilón and Ryan Sessegnon.
Reguilón was bought for a decent fee in 2020 after helping Sevilla win the Europa League the prior season (against Conte’s Inter Milan as a matter of fact). Sessegnon was purchased from Fulham at the end of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign just prior to the 2019-20 season. Despite being a Spurs player for roughly three seasons, he is still a prospect at just 22 years of age. Both players were seen as true competitors left wingback spot. Of the two, it’s been Sessegnon who has gained Conte’s trust as evident by his run of starts towards the end of the season, where he fared well against the likes of Mohamed Salah and Bukayo Saka. For Sessegnon, it has never been about a lack of talent or ability. It has been his inability to stay healthy as well as his confidence that has kept him from taking the next step in his career development.
As it stands this summer, it appears that while Sessegnon has a future at Spurs under Conte, the same cannot be said for Reguilón, who Spurs could still coup a decent fee. There has already been chatter about his boyhood club Real Madrid returning for him with the buy-back clause they put on him ahead of his sale in the 2020 summer.
The expectation is for Spurs to make improvements at both wingback positions this summer. And while Spurs have been a club that has typically navigated the transfer market with the intention of finding younger players with upside, there is thinking that Conte may want to bring in veterans who can come in immediately and contribute with the idea of winning in the now. After the news on Friday became official that Conte was going to stay at Spurs next season, the next news that followed was reunion to be set between Conte and Ivan Perišić. Let’s discuss Perišić and how he fits and projects before taking a look at a few other left wingback options in the event that talks break down.
Ivan Perišić, Inter Milan
With his contract expiring and becoming a free agent, it appears that Spurs have beat out a variety of suitors to win his signature. A name who has been around in European football for what feels like forever, the Croatian international still has some gas left in the tank. At 33, it is obviously a risk bringing in a player of his age, but the Croatian does have years of experience under Conte at Inter where he primarily operated as the first-choice left wingback.
Due to his history playing in a variety of different roles, Perišić is a good commodity to have in the squad as he can play multiple positions. He is a terrific ball-striker and would definitely thrive more in comparison to Spurs’ other left wingbacks options when it comes to putting chances away. Additionally, Perišić would be a good character to have in the dressing room given his experience and the silverware has won over the years at both Inter and even at Bayern Munich on loan at the end of 2020. It makes a lot of sense why Conte wants Perišić on his left. But due to how crazy the summer transfer window is, let’s take a look at a few other wingback options in the event that talks between Spurs and Perišić break down.
Filip Kostić, Eintracht Frankfurt
Fresh off of winning the Europa League with Frankfurt, Kostić is a player whose name has had a lot of buzz lately. He’s been heavily linked with Tottenham this summer, and with just a year left on his deal, Frankfurt could be looking to offload him for a fee. Spurs could start their summer off on a good note by bringing him aboard to work with Conte. Kostić certainly focuses on more attacking play, but another expectation for Spurs this summer is to bring in a dynamic left-sided centerback who would likely give a player like Kostić the impetus to go forward.
Kostić has many natural attacking instincts and would be able to create dynamic overlaps both on the outside and inverted with a player like Son in front of him. He’s an excellent ball-striker who is extremely powerful and is known to spray crosses in from the left. Additionally, Kostić is a good option as a set-piece taker — something Spurs have lacked for a while now. The Serbian international never seems to tire from the left flank. He is a constant threat going forward and would surely be able to put away chances while also providing better and more consistent service to Harry Kane in the middle.
Raphaël Guerreiro, Dortmund
With Erling Haaland coming to the Premier League, Dortmund are losing their talisman. Dortmund have always been a club that has looked to develop players before flipping them for profit which they use to fund the next wave of young players. Because of this, I wonder if a player like Guerreiro would be available.
At 28, Guerreiro has been with Dortmund since 2016. Known for his prowess in getting forward, Guerreiro is a dynamic threat for both Dortmund and the Portuguese national team. His game is dominated by speed, but he is an exceptional passer who also excels in progressive runs. Originally a midfielder, Guerreiro has natural instincts for getting forward, finding space and exploiting it, but he also has years of experience playing in a similar left wingback role in Germany. Like Kostić, Guerreiro has just one year left on his deal.
Maxwel Cornet, Burnley
When Cornet came to Burnley, it was somewhat of a surprise for the Frenchman given that he was moving to a team that was so focused on their defensive play that it would likely dampen his ability going forward. Instead, when he was healthy Cornet was one of the few bright spots for the Clarets with nine goals and an assist despite playing for a very bad side.
When Burnley was relegated in the final matchweek of the season, it supposedly triggered a £15m release clause in his contract. Out of Cornet and Dwight McNeil, the two Burnley players most likely to be sold to other Premier League clubs, my preference would be McNeil given his natural ball-striking ability and his experience in the Premier League, but Spurs reportedly have interest in Cornet, especially at that price. Cornet is quite versatile — he was mainly deployed as a right-sided striker in a 4-4-2, but he has experience playing as a left back from his time at Lyon. Given his natural attacking ability, Cornet’s versatility could be decently utilized at left wingback for Spurs. We always talk about Conte and how he turned Victor Moses into a productive wingback — Cornet in a similar role and in a great situation could be a decent bit of business at the fee listed.
Owen Wijndal, AZ Alkmaar
A player who gets more attention for his play at the international level rather than club, Wijndal is nonetheless quite an underrated performer. Out of the players on this list, Wijndal is the youngest at 22. AZ has produced a lot of decent European players in recent seasons and Wijndal should be next at some point.
Despite his age, Wijndal has handled the left back spot for Alkmaar for a few seasons now. Regardless of the attackers Alkmaar has had recently, Wijndal has shown a good understanding of attacking nuances — almost similar to Sessegnon in the way where he may not be as dynamic at beating players on the ball but he knows when to play the right pass and where to find space. Wijndal is a well-rounded player despite his young age who has great athletic traits. He would not come cheap as Wijndal is easily one of the club’s biggest commodities, but he is a prospect that will naturally progress to a more prestigious European club in due time.
How are you feeling about Perišić at Spurs?
Follow me on Twitter @RyanSRatty.