As summer approaches, clubs across the Premier League will be scouring other countries for enticing prospects, and Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham will be no different.
They may be heading for their second successive top-three finish, but the Lilywhites are unable to compete with their biggest rivals financially, and buying proven Premier League performers can therefore be difficult.
Mauricio Pochettino admitted in December that Spurs have to “be clever and take risks”, adding “sometimes you win and sometimes you lose”.
The challenge is to spot nascent potential, a rough diamond, or a player who is undervalued – and scouts are dispatched all over the globe to find the next bargain.
Like many clubs, Spurs have had hits and misses when they have recruited players from overseas and asked them to adapt to English football.
On the one hand there is Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son. On the other there is Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Clinton Njie and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou. The jury is also out on Vincent Janssen.
So it is worth noting that many of Tottenham’s success stories in recent years have come from investing in homegrown talent.
Indeed, four of the last five winners of the PFA Young Player of the Year award have been Spurs players – and all of them have been British.
The impressive output of the club’s academy has been well-documented and Harry Kane, who picked up the Young Player prize in 2015, is the poster boy for Tottenham’s own youth development programme.
Meanwhile Spurs’ other three winners since 2012 – Kyle Walker, Gareth Bale and Dele Alli – were bought from lower-league sides; Sheffield United, Southampton and MK Dons respectively. A 17-year-old Danny Rose was also signed from Leeds when they were dropping from the Championship to League One in 2007.
There is possibly an assumption, or perception, that a foreign youngster operating in the top tier of their domestic league represents a better bet than a promising homegrown talent awaiting their chance in the academy, or plying their trade in the second or third divisions.
Yet Spurs’ homegrown heroes have disputed that idea. Either way, whether the move is upwards and internal or sideways and cross-channel, the challenge is the same – getting used to the Premier League as quickly as possible.
And, while there is an obvious benefit in buying international stars if they are affordable, that point is not lost on Spurs’ manager Mauricio Pochettino.
“It’s a big pressure to win when you are a big club,” he said. “But I think for me the best example in football in many years was Manchester United with Sir Alex Ferguson – what he created with young talent from the academy or from England , which created the core of a team that won everything. That is a good example for me.
“Tottenham is not the only club in England that believes in young players but I think it is one of the best few clubs that believes. For young players it is a perfect club to develop their game, and we have had success in the league.
“From day one, when we arrived at Southampton, we always told you – our fans, the coaches – that the most important thing was to show belief and faith in the young talent in England .
“It is true it is sometimes easier to look outside your country. It was the same in Spain 25 years ago. I remember I arrived there and it was so difficult because you could only play with three foreign players. But the coaches’ idea for all was that the talent was outside Spain . After a few months I said ‘I think you have the talent here’.
“The problem is to show you have faith and believe. In England it is the same. One of our challenges in the last four years was to show the English people that the talent exists here.
“I think at Southampton and now Tottenham, we’ve been showing if you believe and work and spend time with the youngsters, we have the same talent as in Argentina , Spain and Brazil .”
Pochettino continued: “It is true it is easier to go to France , Spain , Germany , Portugal , Argentina or Brazil , where the clubs have different economies. The way they can survive is to sell players and put in youngsters from 17 to 19 year olds to play in the first team.
“But here, to bring in players of that age, your own players through the academy, when you have money to go into different markets and buy players, that is only if you are a little bit crazy, like we are – we believe in younger players and discovering the talent.
“Thankfully we have a very good academy and people like [academy manager] John McDermott. We spend 12 hours [a day] here for different reasons but one of the reasons is that.”
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