Fun! Spurs are fun! Spurs rolled into Burnley and straight out again with a comprehensive 5-2 away win that put them, at least temporarily, into 2nd place after four league matches. Son Heung-Min got a hat trick. James Maddison scored again and was possibly Spurs’ best player. Cuti Romero added an incredible long-range blast. This Tottenham team has a lot of questions, including how sustainable these early results are, but thus far you can’t dispute that they’re fun. Plus banking away points against the bottom half of the table sets them up very well when they have to play the big boys later on.
We just concluded one of the more frantic ends of the transfer window that I can remember over the past few years. It was nuts, and exemplified by a few notable near misses including Barcelona’s Ansu Fati, Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher and Trevoh Chalobah, Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly, and a few others in the pipe that just never quite panned out.
So that got me thinking — what were some of Spurs’ biggest near-misses in the transfer window? Sounds like a theme to me. Here are your Tottenham Hotspur player ratings to the theme of notable Spurs near-misses in the window.
A fair warning: I’ve been a Spurs fan since 2007 and so these rankings are going to be heavily skewed towards the Premier League era and the past 20 years or so. I’m sure there are some old heads that are going to yell at me about how Spurs nearly landed Jimmy Hinkleturd back in 1918 or something, and they’re right, but I have no context on any of that stuff. Feel free to wax rhapsodic about the great Hinkleturd Era that never was in the comments.
6 stars: Leandro Damiao (2013)
Could it be anything else? Back in 2013, Brazilian Leandro Damiao was what felt like one of the hottest young strikers in world football (he wasn’t). Desired by both Tottenham and by Napoli that summer, Spurs public pursuit of Damiao defined the modern striker search for an entire generation of Spurs fans. That summer is where the “We Need a Striker” meme started, as well as THE, both memes that persist to this day. Leandro Damiao was supposed to be the next great Tottenham front man. I even wrote the DLIS about him back when I was a mere author on this blog. The problem was he just wasn’t that into us, or to Napoli — he ended up signing for Santos in his native Brazil, bounced around for a while as his star faded (did I mention he never recreated the stats that got him on European radars?), and ended up in the J-League with Kawasaki Frontale, where he is still playing today at age 34. Tottenham ended up in a years long fallow period up top that only ended with the rise of Harry Kane. Napoli, having also missed out on him, went to their Plan B and signed some guy named Gonzalo Higuain. BONUS: Read 55thVin’s incredible retrospective alt-history piece about him a few years later.
Look, I just wanted to write a long paragraph about Leandro Damiao, ok?
5 stars: Jack Grealish (2018)
God almightly, this transfer. Daniel Levy, in true Daniel Levy form, had Aston Villa by the short and curlies in the summer of 2018. Villa were relegated to the Championship and in severe financial dire straits under then-owner Tony Xia. Grealish was a monster talent, Tottenham put in a low-ball bid of £25m for him, and convinced Grealish that it was in his best interest to leave his hometown club and take the next step in his career at Spurs. It was in the bag, all Levy had to do was wait, and Villa would eventually cave because they desperately needed that money. But then new owners came in, bought the club from Xia, paid off the debts, and refused to sell Grealish, who signed a new contract at Villa Park before moving to Manchester City for £100m. It was a gut-punch. People still use this saga as a stick with which to beat Levy. I maintain he played everything exactly right and had it not been for miracle new owners moving the goalposts, Jack Grealish would be a Spurs player today.
James Maddison (Community — 4.5): As my colleague Ben Daniels said, it’s awesome how we sold the best player of his generation this summer and replaced him with the best player of his generation. Maddison is just an incredible talent, y’all. He’s the best player on the team and maybe the most on-form creative player in the league thus far.
Son Heung-Min (Community — 5.0): Welcome back, Sonny-boy. Swapped in centrally for Richarlison, he scored a hat trick and reminded us of the guy who tied for the Golden Boot two seasons ago. All of his goals were different and all were awesome.
Ange Postecoglou (Community — 4.5): Gave Manor a chance, moved Sonny central, and used all of his subs very effectively. I dunno y’all, I think he might just be magic.
4.5 stars: Joao Moutinho (2012)
Joao Moutinho was supposed to be Tottenham’s next great midfielder after the sale of Luka Modric. He very nearly was. In 2012, Spurs had agreed a deadline day £30m deal with Porto to sign him where he could’ve potentially partnered with Mousa Dembele in a central midfield pivot that would’ve cracked the football universe open. Instead, Spurs’ fax machine broke down, the paperwork didn’t get submitted until one minute past the deadline, the deal collapsed, and he signed with Monaco a year later before eventually ending up at Wolves. Wolves!
Destiny Udogie (Community — 4.5): Spectacular. Got an assist for Madders’ goal and just continues to get better and better. At this point we’re going to be fending off Manchester City for his services by next summer. (£130m or gtfo)
4 stars: Willian (2013)
God. Remember that time when Spurs were in the process of selling Elvis to buy the Beatles and had Willian IN THE DAMN BUILDING COMPLETING A MEDICAL only for Chelsea to call and recruit him, causing him to leave the training ground to go sign with them? And he was really good and played there for seven years, scoring numerous important goals against us? That sucked. Screw that guy.
Pedro Porro (Community — 3.5): Lost his man for Burnley’s opening goal but more than made up for later on, especially with a gorgeous long ball to set up Sonny’s third.
Cristian Romero (Community — 4.5): That was a Wanyama-esque thunderbastard of a goal. Out of position on both goals (more so the second) but otherwise a very solid performance.
Manor Solomon (Community — 4.0): A very good match on the left side. Had some frustrating mistimed passes in the early goings and killed a few attacks, but his dribbling was disruptive and he ended up with two assists to Sonny so what the hell do I know? I’m starting to understand why Ange greenlit his acquisition and it makes me want to re-evaluate what Brennan Johnson can do in this team.
3.5 stars: Rivaldo (2002)
Tottenham were apparently super duper close to signing superstar and Ballon d’Or winner Rivaldo on a free transfer the year he left Barcelona in 2002. This was right after ENIC bought the club and Daniel Levy, fresh faced and not entirely bald, wanted a splashy new signing to make a real statement that Spurs were a club on the rise under manager Glenn Hoddle. It came down to a decision between Spurs and AC Milan... and Rivaldo chose Milan. Unsurprising, really, considering the stature of Milan at the time but still. Drat.
Guglielmo Vicario (Community — 4.0): Not a ton to do but came up HUGE with a spectacular second have save on Foster. Couldn’t do much about the first goal and the foot was off the gas for the second.
Micky van de Ven (Community — 4.0): He’s human after all. “Merely” a good performance instead of a superb one. Some suspect positioning in the opening half hour and couldn’t slide in quick enough to stop Brownhill but had several key tackles and stops.
Dejan Kulusevski (Community — 3.5): Deki continues to be ALMOST spectacular but never quite gets there. He gets in the box but his touches or cutback passes don’t quite make their targets. He makes some great moves but can’t quite get the shot away. He’ll get there.
Yves Bissouma (Community — 4.0): Yves has set the bar so high for himself that even a competent performance feels a tad disappointing. He wasn’t bad by any means but took a while to impose himself in the match.
3 stars: Literally anyone Harry Redknapp says he almost signed
To hear ol ‘Arry tell it, at one point during his Tottenham tenure he nearly signed Luis Suarez, Eden Hazard, Santi Cazorla, Diego Forlan, Thibaut Courtois, Stewart Downing, Gary Cahill, Patrick Viera, and Genarro Gattuso. I choose to believe all of them are true. ‘Triffic.
Pape Sarr (Community — 3.5): Pape is a solid talent but sometimes shows his youth, and that was the case today. Got beat in the lead-up to Burnley’s first goal, booked for a petulant kick and looked a little ineffectual at times, but still played well enough and is still getting plenty of shots from that 8 position.
Ivan Perisic (Community — 3.0): Played the “I am a Guy™ here to see out the match” role. Did it fine.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Community — 3.0): Came in as a substitute after nearly being sold the previous day and put a professional, stabilizing performance. Hard to complain about it. Picked up a yellow.
Richarlison (Community — 2.5): By the time he came in Spurs had taken their foot off the gas. Pressed well, had one half chance but otherwise didn’t see much of the ball.
2.5 stars: Sadio Mane (2016)
According to deep Tottenham lore, Mauricio Pochettino desperately wanted to bring Sadio Mane, whom he managed at Southampton, over to Tottenham Hotspur, but Daniel Levy reportedly balked at the £35m transfer fee and Mane’s demanded wages of nearly £90k/wk. Who knows if that’s actually true, but the people who wear purple and gold scarves right now sure think it is.
Just filling out the categories.
2 stars: Hulk (2012)
Admittedly my memory of this particular saga is a bit hazy, but as it was explained to me, Zenit St. Petersburg paid around €60m for him, a HUGE overpay at the time, and wanted to break even when trying to sell him. Spurs were very interested but after prolonged negotiations eventually said Nah and walked away from the deal. Hulk eventually was sold to Shanghai SIPG for £45m in 2016, another massively inflated fee. He’s apparently still kicking around back in Brazil at Atletico Mineiro.
More category filling.
1 star: Saido Berahino (2015)
Ah, the saga of Little Bear. Saido Berahino’s star was rising in the summer of 2015 when Spurs engaged in a long, protracted campaign to sign him from West Brom that was annoying as it was worthless. West Brom never gave in despite Spurs’ four transfer bids that summer, but in the process Berahino significantly strained his relationship with WBA and manager Tony Pulis to the point where Little Bear publicly claimed he’d never play for West Brom under then chairman Jeremy Peace again. They “reconciled,” but the damage was done and Pulis basically never started him again. He was eventually sold to Stoke City, his career went off the rails, and he’s now at AEL Limassol in Cyprus. That saga was the WORST, clearly a 1-star near-miss... although, in their disappointment Spurs pivoted to their second choice attacker, Son Heung-Min. Hmm, maybe Berahino was actually a five-star near-miss after all! We got it all wrong!
No Tottenham players were as bad as the saga of Saido Berahino.
Christopher Samba Memorial Non-Rating
Oliver Skipp, Emerson Royal