It’s no secret that Tottenham Hotspur need significant reinforcements in central defense. Spurs will be wafer-thin at the back at least until January, but today there’s news that the club is close to a signing that could help them in a big way in future seasons. According to several outlets including Alasdair Gold and Dan Kilpatrick in the Evening Standard, Tottenham are in the final negotiations to sign 16-year old Croatian central defender Luka Vuskovic from Hejduk Split. The transfer fee is “rumored to be” around £12m.
A talented young Croatian named Luka? Well, that worked out pretty well the last time!
Deal almost done for Spurs to sign 16-year-old Luka Vusković from Hajduk Split, as per @FabrizioRomano. The young centre-back is expected to join Tottenham in 2025 after he turns 18.— Alasdair Gold (@AlasdairGold) September 10, 2023
Vuskovic is only 16 years old but he’s a starter in the back line for Split, which currently tops the Croatian League table, which includes powerhouse Dinamo Zagreb. He’s Split’s record youngest goal scorer. He’s also HUGE — 6’4” already at 16 and he’s probably not done growing. He’s been on the radar of Manchester City, Liverpool, PSG, and Chelsea, so landing him now is something of a coup for Tottenham.
As Gold states above, Vuskovic can’t join Tottenham until he’s 18, so the signing probably means an immediate loan-back to Split for the remainder of this season, and likely next season as well.
I’ve never seen this kid play and neither have you (don’t lie) so I’m basically going by what everyone else is saying, but they’re all saying super good things about him. He’s one for the future, and Tottenham have been quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) building for the future over the past few seasons. Spurs have another central defender, Ashley Phillips, waiting in the wings, and have signed a number of really exciting young players in recent seasons including strikers Alejo Veliz, Will Lankshear, and Jude Soonsup-Bell, and attacking midfielder Alfie Devine.
For many years Spurs have been mishandling its academy as it prioritized winning at the senior level, blocking pathways to the first team for its younger players and not prioritizing bringing in exceptional talent. That appears to be changing now.
Ange Postecoglou, unlike his recent predecessors, loves using and developing young players, and while not every Spurs U23 player is going to hit, it’s often significantly cheaper to buy tomorrow’s stars today and bring them through than it is to buy players ready made for the first team. Spurs shouldn’t ignore talent that immediately improves the starting XI, but targeting young players on the cusp of first team football like Phillips, Devine, Veliz, and now Vuskovic can pay significant dividends.
£12m is a lot of money for a 16 year old, and gives this the feel of an actual move, not a cheap lottery ticket. That’s fine, so long as he makes the leap at Tottenham and is given opportunities for first team football. Youth development is a crap shoot, and there’s no guarantee he won’t flame out or plateau, or get frustrated when he doesn’t get opportunities (say hello Jack Clarke). But sometimes you gotta take a swing on young talents like this when given the opportunity. I’m all for it. Hope he’s good!