With the Standard reporting that Tottenham Hotspur have registered an interest in Hoffenheim fullback Jeremy Toljan, fans will be wondering what the Germany under-21 player would bring to Hotspur Way ahead of a potential move.
For a start, the 22-year-old (eligible for the Germany under-21s through his date of birth) would be a versatile addition to the squad. Able to play on either flank, Toljan would add further depth, but especially at right-back, where Kieran Trippier now appears to be first choice after Kyle Walker’s departure.
The only other option at right-back would be academy product Kyle Walker-Peters, who has shown promise on the pre-season tour of the United States, but realistically is one or two years off being a first-team regular.
The German would thus provide manager Mauricio Pochettino with an alternative to Trippier – who is occasionally lamented for defensive frailties – or to provide rotation given Spurs’ European commitments and domestic cups, which they must look to compete seriously in this year.
Toljan’s more dynamic offensive play would also make him a better stylistic fit than Trippier. Walker’s attacking output was emphasised throughout the season and, while Trippier is a good crosser of the ball, he doesn’t make the same overlapping runs as Walker or, on the opposite flank, Danny Rose.
Toljan is a better fit for a system that demands width from its full-backs, and given the width of the Wembley pitch this could be key in unlocking sterner defences. At 22 years of age, the German would not be expected to be anywhere near as good as Walker, but he has the potential to develop his game in these areas, especially under a world class coach like Pochettino.
Defensively, the full-backs won’t be tested against minor opposition, but with the likes of Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and Sadio Mane at the bigger clubs, Toljan will need to use every ounce of his ability to contain these attacking talents – an experience that will surely make him a better player.
The signing of Tolja, who is available for as little as £3.1 million, according to the Standard, would also avoid delving too deep into the limited funds Spurs have, given their new stadium.
The £50 million brought in by the sale of Kyle Walker would also remain largely intact, leaving Spurs over £45 million to spend on other players. This could mean adding Ross Barkley to the squad, as Everton manager Ronald Koeman has announced he expects Barkley to leave, as per ESPN.
Lack of depth in key positions is what ultimately cost Spurs the league last season, though it also hinders their ability to compete effectively on multiple fronts. If the Walker-money is reinvested, Spurs could add serious depth to their squad.
There are always fears over a foreign players’ ability to adapt to the physicality and the pace of the Premier League, but such fears may be unfounded with Toljan. After all, he has come from one of Europe’s truly elite leagues, in the Bundesliga, having faced the attacks of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and, this season, RB Leipzig.
He also has international experience at every youth level, and impressed as the Germany under-21s won the European Championship this summer – beating England in the semi finals.
At 22, he should be strong enough to cope with the physical demands of the league in a way that the younger Kyle Walker-Peters perhaps isn’t yet. Finally, with a stalwart of the German game retiring this season – Philip Lahm – it stands that the German national team will be looking at a new full-back.
Perhaps a move to one of England’s top clubs could help Toljan to obtain that place ahead of the 2018 World Cup, thus making Spurs an increasingly attractive destination, and one that would favour all parties.