As Tottenham Hotspur prepare to take on Juventus in the Champions League this evening they do so with one player in particular in fantastic form. Belgian international Mousa Dembele has been thriving in the middle of the park for Spurs this season.
In the first leg, at Juventus, he ran the midfield and left pundits across Europe purring. Dembele, who is often referred to as Tottenham’s best player by his team-mates, is finally being recognised across the board as a world-class midfielder.
But back in the summer of 2015, things were very different. It seemed at the time that Tottenham were willing to sell Dembele, with Everton midfielder James McCarthy lined up as his replacement.
It was reported by the Telegraph that Chelsea were keen on Dembele that summer, with a fee of £12 million mooted. That was considered a shock move. In fact, it seemed more likely Sunderland or West Ham could be his next move, as reported by the Daily Star.
At the same time, Everton midfielder McCarthy had just had an excellent campaign at Goodison Park. He soon found himself linked with a £20 million switch to Spurs, who were known admirers of the Irishman, as reported by the Telegraph.
Now such talk seems ludicrous. Dembele has been one of the best performing midfielders in the Premier League, and Champions League, this season. The Belgian has cemented his place in the Tottenham side. Aside from Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris, Dembele is probably the first name on the Spurs teamsheet.
McCarthy’s career on the other hand has stalled since. He is currently out of action with a horrific leg break, just after finally coming back into the Everton team after being frozen out by Ronald Koeman. His lack of action under Koeman was not helped by more niggling injury trouble.
Yet, in the summer of 2015, this seemed likely. Spurs were not yet sold on Dembele. He had struggled with injury trouble himself. In trying to fill the void left by a cult hero in Luka Modric, Dembele was always going to struggle. McCarthy on the other hand was the swashbuckling Everton star, who seemed to be man-of-the-match every time he played.
Three years later, and the idea Tottenham would sell Dembele for £12 million seems laughable.
Replace him with McCarthy?
Right now not many Spurs fans would replace their Belgian maestro with the man he replaced, Modric.
Hopefully Dembele can dominate Juventus’ midfield again this evening and continue to highlight his progression from three years ago.