Tanguy Ndombele cherished the support of his ‘big brothers’ at Tottenham but now faces crunch talks alone

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As late as Monday evening, there was still some optimism at Tottenham about finding a buyer for Tanguy Ndombele on deadline day.

By the following morning, however, when Spurs’ football committee convened to discuss their approach to the day ahead, it was acknowledged there would be no offer acceptable to the club and player, and word went around that Ndombele would be staying put again.

Ndombele, who had asked to leave the club over the summer, has been in this position before, having agitated for a transfer a year ago, too.

To the midfielder’s credit and former manager Jose Mourinho’s, Ndombele knuckled down to produce some consistent performances last season but his situation feels altogether more difficult now.

Last summer, Ndombele had support from his friends Moussa Sissoko and Serge Aurier – both influential figures in the dressing room – as well as a powerful backer in chairman Daniel Levy.

Sissoko and Aurier both left the club over the summer – Sissoko for Watford, while Spurs terminated Aurier’s contract shortly before the deadline, having also failed to find a buyer for the right-back – and Levy has since taken a back seat in running the football side of the club.

Tanguy  Ndombele and  Moussa Sissoko at Spurs before the latter’s exit (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
Tanguy Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko at Spurs before the latter’s exit (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

The chairman, whose pep talk to Ndombele during the 2019-20 season was captured in Amazon Prime’s fly-on-the-wall-documentary, has handed the football decisions to managing director Fabio Paratici, so the Italian and head-coach Nuno Espirito Santo will be the ones to hold talks with Ndombele this week.

Patience with the maverick Frenchman is wearing thin at Spurs, however, and it is unclear just how those discussions will progress.

Clearly the club want to get an expensive asset playing again but there is a feeling – articulated by Nuno last month – that only Ndombele himself can change his situation.

“To take the best out of Tanguy [it] has to come from himself,” Nuno said before the win over his former club Wolves.

One question is how the midfielder will respond to the departures of Sissoko and Aurier, whose support for their "little brother" was also captured in Amazon’s All or Nothing’.

Were Ndombele’s friends in any way a negative influence, holding him back, or will he be even unhappier, more isolated and determined to leave Spurs without them?

Jose Mourinho made concessions for Tanguy  Ndombele (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Jose Mourinho made concessions for Tanguy Ndombele (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Paratici and Levy know Spurs can scarcely afford to allow a £55million asset, whose contract runs to 2025, to steadily depreciate by spending the next six months or a year on the peripheries of Nuno’s team.

And the head coach is aware of what Ndombele could bring to his side, who have started the season with a 4-3-3 system that should suit the former Lyon player.

Nuno’s Spurs have recorded three consecutive wins to propel them to the top of the fledgling Premier League table, all without Ndombele, but have nonetheless missed a player like him.

Their midfield struggled to cope with Wolves’ press at Molineux, while in all three 1-0 wins some extra creativity from deep would have been welcome.

That said, the two cornerstones of Nuno’s impressive start at Spurs have been a desire for his team to be, above all, “solid” from back to front, as well as a fierce emphasis on the collective.

In a surprisingly short space of time, Nuno has seemingly got the squad pulling in the same direction again, following a fractious 17 months under Mourinho.

Nuno Espirito Santo faces a test of his diplomacy (AFP via Getty Images)
Nuno Espirito Santo faces a test of his diplomacy (AFP via Getty Images)

No player, however talented, will be allowed to be a passenger in the team, nor jeopardise squad harmony.

Despite his reputation, Mourinho was surprisingly willing to make concessions for Ndombele, perhaps sensing that he needed to be more flexible at Spurs.

Mourinho continued to play Ndombele, and often lavished him with praise, all the while hinting that he was not still not doing enough to fulfil his potential.

Nuno, by contrast, seems less likely to do the same. He was ​ruthless at sidelining players who did not fit with his ethos, not matter their quality and seniority, during his time at Wolves and is less enamoured by individual talent than his permanent predecessor.

The manager’s principles are another reason why Ndombele may find it harder to make another comeback at Spurs, while the way Nuno handles the 24-year-old should prove an interesting early test of his diplomacy and position.

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