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Exclusive: Milos Veljkovic – Werder Bremen hopes, World Cup chances and Spurs exit

The Werder Bremen defender spoke to The Boot Room about his time in Germany and his chances with the Serbia national team.

Mathew Coull

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Photo: Getty Images

Not every extremely talented youngster makes it at Tottenham Hotspur. Making it into the first-team at Spurs is no mean feat and in the end, many have to head elsewhere.

The likes of Ryan Mason, Alex Pritchard, Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll are such examples, but the list goes on.

Another name who would appear on that list is Milos Veljkovic. In the winter of 2016, after nearly five years at Spurs, he left to join German side Werder Bremen.

The defender, who can also operate in midfield, was making a brave move joining a club halfway through a season. But Veljkovic backed his ability and made the switch.

Now the Serbian international has spoken exclusively to The Boot Room about his time in Germany, his national team hopes and what helped trigger his desire for a Spurs exit.

(Photo by Joerg Sarbach/Getty Images)

At first, some might have felt Veljkovic had made a mistake with the move. First-team football was not immediate at Bremen.

His first start, in March of 2016, saw Bayern Munich put five past The River Islanders.

But Veljkovic worked hard and, as of January last year, has become an ever-present in the Werder Bremen side:

“When I came from England I had a tough start with injury and I didn’t play so much as I wanted,” he explains.

“But I think I have turned it around. Now I am playing and have a lot of games and play every game so I am satisfied.”

His recent form has certainly not gone unnoticed.

Veljkovic has played 31 times this season and become a vital cog in the Bremen defensive unit. Such form saw the club’s sporting director Frank Baumann tell Deich Stube last month of his desire to tie down Veljkovic to a new deal.

Whilst being wary of the dangers of commitment in the modern game, the Serbian certainly sounds happy to be at the Weser Stadion:

“In football, you never know because this is a business and everything,” Veljkovic forewarns.

“But I like the club, I like the coach and my team-mates. (I like) the city and you know it is a nice environment and at the moment I am really happy.

“But you know, you never know what can happen. But I think you know at the moment I am confident and happy to be here.”

The move from England to Germany and vice-versa has been a common theme in recent years. With good reason as well.

Both leagues have massive similarities. A fast-paced and high octane style in both leagues, Veljkovic sees few differences between the Premier League and the Bundesliga:

“I didn’t play too much in Tottenham the first-team but I watched them also. I was also in the Championship (on loan at Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic). I played some games there.

“I think (the Premier League) is quite similar. It is also very fast, depends again who you play, you know normally it is like this and it is physical also. Also, technically you need to be really sharp. With your technique and your movement and everything, you need to be concentrated. Or else you are going to get punished so I think it is really similar.”

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

As well as finding his feet in Germany, the 22-year-old is making waves with his national team. Although born and raised in Switzerland, even representing the nation at under-16 level, Veljkovic is unquestionably a proud Serbian.

In 2013 he helped his country win the European Under-19 Championships. Two years later, and Serbia conquered the world. Veljkovic played every game as Serbia won the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand, a feat England achieved last summer.

Clearly, it was a moment of huge pride to the young man:

“The experience was amazing,” said Veljkovic. “To win the u-20 World Cup with Serbia was something amazing. It was not like Brazil or Germany it was Serbia, so it was even more special because we were not favourites or nowhere near.

“But we believed in ourselves and it was an amazing experience. When we came back the people in Serbia were really, really happy because they didn’t have much exciting football before.

“Everyone was watching. Even at seven in the morning. To see those happy faces and people smiling there, it really made me proud. After five or six days we realised what he had done because it was like a dream, you know?”

But it was also one of the catalysts that pushed him out of Tottenham Hotspur. Veljkovic, who had played just three times for Spurs, felt his time to play regular first-team football had come:

“It was a really big experience for me but then to come back to Tottenham and not get a chance that also got me a bit upset.”

(Photo by Marty Melville/Getty Images)

With his pathway blocked by the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer and Eric Dier the time was right to move on:

“After this, I wanted to be able to get a chance. Obviously, I can’t play every game then but I needed a chance or I needed to go somewhere else. So that was what I decided.

“Unfortunately I could not go straight away to Werder Bremen but after six months the club agreed to let me go. It was also a relief because after winning the under-20 World Cup all of my team-mates went to big clubs or were playing with their respective clubs. I didn’t get the chance. This was a bit disappointing from my point of view.”

Such a feeling should certainly come as a warning for English teams, with such an abundance of talent in the Premier League likely feeling the same way Veljkovic did after his summer triumph.

This summer Serbia will be competing at the World Cup for the first time since 2010. A golden generation has passed, but a new one is on the horizon. Serbia dominated a qualifying group containing both the Republic of Ireland and Wales, who ended up not making it to Russia.

Veljkovic has two caps for the national team, after making his debut in November 2017. Undoubtedly, he is in consideration for the summer and was in the national squad for the most recent fixtures against Morocco and Nigeria.

But the young defender is clearly just focused on a strong finish to the season with his club side:

“At the moment I am just concentrating on the last five games in Germany with the Bundesliga. Obviously, everyone wants to go there.

“I think if I am fit and if I keep playing, then I will be there. Hopefully.”

(Photo credit should read MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP/Getty Images)

Werder Bremen had a tough start to the Bundesliga this season but with Veljkovic’s help, the ship has been steadied. Now, with just one defeat in six, they sit 12th in the table and look comfortable ahead of next season:

“I have always had this feeling with Bremen,” claimed an optimistic Veljkovic. “With this coach and with these team-mates. If we keep the coach and these players and keep playing like this, like we have, we will be looking up rather than down.

“I think we will be really successful next season.”

Veljkovic has an exciting few months ahead. A possible World Cup experience lies in waiting and he is also clearly hopeful of achieving great things with his club side next season.

Bremen and Serbia fans are certainly lucky to have a personality like Veljkovic’s on their side going into 2018, 2019 and beyond.

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Salomon Rondon would be ideal back-up for Harry Kane and Tottenham

Josh Kerr

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Salomon Rondon
Photo: Getty Images

According to reports from the Daily Mirror, Tottenham Hotspur are interested in adding West Bromwich Albion‘s Salomon Rondon to their attacking ranks.

The recently relegated striker will be hoping to stay in the Premier League and Mauricio Pochettino can ensure that happens for the Venezuela international.

Harry Kane has been a revelation once again for the Lilywhites firing 30 league goals this season and was also nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award.

However, Pochettino has still not found a suitable back-up for the Englishman and is already looking for another replacement.

Fernando Llorente was signed from Swansea last season after Vincent Janssen failed to make an impact in north London.

However, the 33-year-old striker could not improve on his 15 goal tally for the Swans that kept them in the top flight a year ago.

The Spanish forward has one goal in 16 Premier League appearances for Spurs and it’s understandable that Pochettino already wants a replacement.

Rondon would not be a signing that should get fans excited by any means.

After all, he does not represent a world-class striker in the slightest and, similarly to Llorente, he has spent the majority of his Premier League career scrapping at the bottom end of the table.

Despite finishing rock bottom in the league this campaign, Rondon was one of those who emerged from the season with some credibility, scoring 10 goals in all competitions for the Baggies.

The Baggies forward is a striker who has often looked isolated and lacking options in a West Brom side that has struggled to get the best out of him.

In a flourishing Spurs team, his Premier League goal tally, of 24, could steadily improve.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Rondon has a relegation release clause in his contract that can see him leave the Midlands side for a reported fee of £16.5 million.

This may be off-putting for Spurs fans as the fee is not cheap considering the Venezuelan’s lack of firepower.

However, at 28, he is five years younger than Llorente and would only cost £2 million more than the fee they paid for the Spaniard, so it’s not the worst transfer when wanting more attacking options.

There’s no doubt that Llorente has struggled at Wembley this season and at 33, Levy may be tempted to move the former Juventus striker on and refresh his forward line.

A club of Spurs’ stature will always be linked with bigger names, but Rondon could still be a smart appointment for the Londoners.

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Tottenham fans react to latest Mousa Dembele contract setback

Josh Kerr

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Mousa Dembele
Photo: Getty Images

According to the Evening Standard, Mousa Dembele’s agent claims the Belgian international will not sign a new contract with Tottenham Hotspur before the summer World Cup.

The 30-year-old is set to enter the final year of his Spurs contract, which expires on June 30 next year, and the club’s supporters are understandably growing impatient.

According to earlier reports by the MirrorMauricio Pochettino is ready to listen to offers for the likes of Mousa Dembele, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Moussa Sissoko.

Dembele was one of the names shortlisted and has been a revelation in his six seasons at the club.

However, despite another successful season in north London, the former Fulham midfielder is likely to put an end to his love affair with the Lilywhites.

Dembele’s current deal expires in 12 months and, after starting just 21 of 38 League games, he may be considering other options for the final years of his career.

Spurs fans reacted to his agent’s comments, with the majority urging Pochettino to offload the powerhouse midfielder this summer and find a suitable replacement for the Belgium superstar.

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Tottenham Hotspur news round-up: Pochettino signs, De Ligt hope and Wanyama commits

All the big news from Tottenham Hotspur today.

Mathew Coull

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Poch signs on

It has been a busy day at Tottenham Hotspur, starting off with the excellent news about Mauricio Pochettino.

The Argentine, who has been linked with a number of top jobs in world football, has committed his future to the North London club.

He has signed a deal to remain Spurs boss until 2023, along with his coaching staff.

It is a deal that will undoubtedly please the Tottenham fans, and has the chairman. Daniel Levy said of the deal on the club’s official website:

“Mauricio has fostered an incredible spirit in the team and has embraced a style of play our fans have loved watching. I know they will welcome this commitment by Mauricio.”

For many Tottenham fans this is the most important signing of the summer. Losing Pochettino would have been a nightmare scenario for the club and getting him tied down so early in the summer is a massive boost for everyone at the club.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

De Ligt-ful transfer on the cards

Spurs are also in talks over bringing Dutch international defender Matthijs De Ligt to North London. The 18-year-old talent is being lined up as a potential replacement for Toby Alderweireld, who is being targeted by Manchester United.

The London Evening Standard report that Spurs are hopeful their good relationship with Ajax can help them secure a deal. In the past Spurs have signed Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez from the Amsterdam club and believe that may weigh in their favour.

The teenager would be a magnificent recruit for Spurs, so this is one story to keep an eye on.

Spurs are also said to be keeping tabs on Egyptian defender Ahmed Hegazi of West Brom. ESPN claim Spurs are tracking the player, valued at around £2.5 million.

Wanyama staying

Whilst Alderweireld looks like he is going, one player who isn’t is Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama.

It has been suggested he could be moved on to make funds this summer with replacements being lined up.

But Spurs’ battle-hardened midfielder is not keen on an exit. Speaking to Goal he made it clear he has no desire of leaving Tottenham this summer.

Spurs fans will hope that is the case, despite his indifferent form and fitness this term. Wanyama is still a valuable member of the Tottenham team and they will hopefully manage to keep him at the club.

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