Tottenham: PSG eye midfielder; defender ready for Mourinho; Ibra's Europa League warning
It’s all systems go at White Hart Lane, with Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspurs’ focus firmly switched towards preparing for their Premier League clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday. However, given that Spurs have managed to negotiate their domestic season so far with just one league defeat to their names, such success doesn’t come without speculation of interest in their stars from elsewhere.
Pochettino and the club hierarchy have already got to work on all that, agreeing improved contracts with Harry Kane and Jan Vertonghen, with Toby Alderweireld next in line, but if reports from the Daily Mirror are to be believed, there is also keen interest emerging from Europe in Spurs’ young midfield prospect Dele Alli.
According to the report by the Mirror’s John Cross, Real Madrid are keen admirers of the midfielder, but it is Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain who are set to make a move in the summer, and are thought to be plotting a £50million transfer swoop for the former MK Dons man, who has also been capped by England.
The report claims that PSG are closely monitoring Alli’s progress and have already been keeping an eye on him following his breaking into the England squad ahead of Euro 2016, regarding the midfielder as a ‘special talent’.
After a disappointing end to their Champions League group campaign and a more difficult season domestically, the big-spending Parisians are keen to re-establish themselves as the undisputed leader in French football and as solid contenders for the Champions League. They also have the boost of the strong financial backing of their Qatari owners.
Despite 20-year-old Alli signing an improved contract of his own earlier in the week, increasing his wages to £60,000 per week, the Parc des Princes side could easily afford an increased wage package to lure the youngster away from White Hart Lane, whilst the prospect of playing abroad could also work in their favour.
Alli has proved an incredible success for Tottenham since he signed for just £5m in February 2015, having quickly established himself in the first team, broken into the England side and become a mainstay in the international fold and subsequently been touted one of the best young prospects in the country.
It would therefore be a huge profit if Poch’ and the club did decide to cash in, but Spurs will surely show their resolve to hang onto one of their biggest up and coming stars, particularly given their recent club policy of building the squad around their crux of young players.
Transfer rumours aside, it is certain that Alli and his teammates’ focus will firmly be on Sunday’s trip to the Theatre of Dreams to face off against Mourinho’s United, and Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen has already reiterated his determination to not allow the occasion to get to him, or to his Spurs teammates.
Vertonghen has already found himself in the face of staunch criticism from the Special One, who accused the Belgian of play acting three years ago in a bid to get Fernando Torres sent off during a clash between Spurs and Chelsea, who Mourinho managed at the time.
Vertonghen however, who is set to resume his central defensive partnership with compatriot Toby Alderweireld, has told the Daily Mirror that he is ready to retain his focus in the face of Mourinho’s mind games.
“Mourinho has always got something to say. He is a good manager and he says things in the media. It’s part of the job and he plays it the way he wants to”, Vertonghen said.
“He is a great coach first of all, done great things with different teams. He has shown he is a very good coach and a colourful character, but football needs that.”
Despite the fact that United and Mourinho have had their struggles of late, Spurs boss Pochettino has also weighed in on the debate of whether or not the Special One really has lost some of his lustre, maintaining that even now he still remains a great source of inspiration for younger managers such as himself.
“We cannot forget all the titles he won. He was and is a reference for all the young managers. My perspective of him will never change”, said Pochettino.
“You can’t stop to say if someone is different or has changed from a distance. What we can see from outside is an effect of what has happened. Sometimes you are upset, sometimes you are happy. It is too difficult to judge from the outside. I think he is the same.”
The clash comes after a week in which Pochettino and Spurs have sealed progression to the Round of 32 in the Europa League, just as Mourinho’s United did on Thursday with their 2-0 victory away to Ukrainian outfit Zorya Luhansk in Odessa. Since, Pochettino has already confirmed his intention to treat the Europa League seriously, having outlined it as a potentially easier route back into the Champions League than finishing in the top four of the Premier League.
United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who like his United teammates has one day less of rest to prepare for the showdown with Tottenham, thanks to the pitfalls of featuring in the Europa League’s Thursday night games, has fired off a warning to Pochettino’s men that investing their hopes in going for the Europa League title may not be all that easy.
Ibrahimovic, who started and scored in United’s victory in the Ukraine, told the Sun, as quoted in the London Evening Standard: “We don’t have a lot of rest. These Thursdays are killing us, especially me”.
“Now we have one day less to recover before we face Spurs.”
Ibrahimovic’s words will come across as an ominous warning and a dark reminder for Tottenham, who have suffered from a demanding Europa League schedule in the past, as their participation in the latter stages of the competition put pain to their Premier League title hopes last season, with Pochettino’s side hitting a run of poor form towards the end of the campaign to eventually lose out in the title race to Leicester, and finish third behind bitter rivals Arsenal.
“I am disappointed because after fighting a lot last season to play Champions League, we can feel disappointed”, the Standard quotes Pochettino as saying following Spurs’ Champions League win over CSKA Moscow, which sealed their place in the Europa League.
“But it is not a consolation because the Europa League is a great competition and to have the possibility to win an important competition in Europe is good.”
“I think the Europa League is very important going forward, it is a great competition. It is not a consolation because in the last few years Tottenham have been playing in the Europa League.”
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