Tottenham transfer window: Why Spurs face most crucial summer since 2019 after Champions League return

Tottenham transfer window: Why Spurs face most crucial summer since 2019 after Champions League return

Published May 25, 2022
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At Carrow Road on Sunday, as at the King Power Stadium a year ago, a Tottenham player was presented with a Golden Boot at the side of the pitch after contributing towards a high-scoring win that ensured their team finished a place above north London rivals Arsenal in the Premier League table. That is where the similarities end. The mood around the club has been transformed.

On 23 May, 2021 it looked very much as though Harry Kane had played his final game for the club. Before collecting his top scorer award, Kane was lovingly embraced by Son Heung-min and Dele Alli on the pitch and as the television camera lingered on the trio for a number of seconds, it seemed as though a parting of the ways was inevitable.

Fast forward to 22 May, 2022 when a beaming Son was being hoisted onto the shoulders of his team-mates after drawing level for goals with Mo Salah, Kane was fist-pumping the Spurs support and Antonio Conte was serenaded by fans drunk on jubilation. If qualifying for the Conference League last year was an inconvenience, reaching the Champions League promised land this time around could be a game-changer.

Not for the first time, Spurs are approaching a pivotal transfer window. If last summer was spent keeping Kane out of Manchester City’s clutches, this summer is about ensuring that the undeniable progress made under Conte over the past six-and-a-half months is built upon.

Statistically, Spurs were the third-best team in the country after Conte took charge in November, but it says plenty about the superiority of the big two that Manchester City won 17 more points and Liverpool 14 over that period. Closing the gap on both will be immensely difficult, particularly as Arsenal, Manchester United and maybe even Newcastle, will invest heavily in their squads. Nobody is quite sure what lies in store for Chelsea, but a takeover could galvanise the club after a slump in 2022.

Although Conte acknowledged that finishing fourth was like “winning a trophy” for the club, he insisted that they cannot afford to stand still. “We need to improve a lot,” he stated. “Next season the league will be very difficult, with five subs you can change a game. If the bench is strong like a top team, like Man City, Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool, you need to improve a lot your squad in a quality aspect and numerical aspect.”

With Cristian Romero, Matt Doherty, Oliver Skipp and Sergio Reguilon out injured, Tottenham’s bench had a threadbare look to it in Norwich, with a 20-year-old and three teenagers included. While Conte refused to discuss how many new players he would like the club to sign, a reasonable expectation is that he will demand up to six or seven to not only enhance his starting XI but beef up his squad.

Despite Ben Davies’ stellar form, Spurs will look to sign a left-sided centre back with Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni and RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol reportedly on the list. Pau Torres of Villarreal was a target last summer. Acquiring a first-choice right wing-back is also a priority, while another left-sided player could be a target too, despite Ryan Sessegnon’s strong end to the campaign. Competition for Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in central midfield is also required.

Tottenham’s player recruitment record over the past five years has been mixed, to say the least. Managing director of football Fabio Paratici deserves credit for signing three exceptional players this season in Romero, Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski, all of whom are under the age of 24. Romero looks like Ledley King and Toby Alderweireld rolled into one, while the Kane-Son double act has become a triple threat since Kulusevski’s arrival. Acquiring a few more players of that ilk would be extremely welcome.

It is also of paramount importance that new signings this summer adapt as quickly as Romero, Bentancur and Kulusevski have to ensure that Spurs are in a position to compete for honours right away. Spurs do not have the security with their manager that Man City and Liverpool do; Conte’s contract is due to expire in a year’s time, whereas Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp’s deals run to 2025 and 2026 respectively. Even though Conte did not confirm whether he will still be at Spurs next season, the expectation is that he will now that Champions League qualification is assured. But beyond that is anyone’s guess.

The window for Spurs to capitalise on Kane and Son’s peak years is also narrowing. Kane will be 29 and Son 30 by the opening weekend of 2022-23. Kane’s infamously long contract is now entering its final two years and it remains to be seen whether an extension will be proposed over the next few months. Since Conte’s arrival, they are the two leading goalscorers in the Premier League with Son scoring 19 and Kane managing 16. Conte, Kane and Son are all world-class and the pillars of Spurs’ project.

For now, the club will bask in an unlikely triumph. But attention will soon turn to what comes next. Spurs botched their chance to improve after reaching the Champions League final in 2019. They can ill afford to do so again.