With Tottenham Hotspur struggling for strength in depth in central midfield and Mousa Dembele’s departure seemingly a matter of when and not if, Daniel Levy will be acutely aware of the need to add a new lynchpin to his squad in 2019.
A makeshift pair in Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks have formed a formidable partnership and marshalled Tottenham’s midfield with boundless enthusiasm and efficiency in recent weeks.
The return of Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama should add a further layer of solidity to the midfield unit, but the absence of a natural playmaker is telling.
Despite Sissoko’s immense improvement this season, there is no question he is lacking the technical prowess to take Tottenham to the next level. Winks, on the other hand, is technically astute but more suited to a box-to-box role, while Dier and Wanyama are most comfortable in anchor roles.
And with Dembele – the only deep-lying playmaker residing within Pochettino’s squad – edging closer to the exit door, Tottenham will be short of creative quality needed to provide a fluid front four with the excellent service they need.
Taking individual quality, value and Levy’s transfer policy into consideration, lets compare two midfield playmakers who have been linked with a move to north London and could fill the notable void left by Dembele’s probable departure…
Shades of Tom Huddlestone? Drawing such comparisons certainly won’t have the Spurs fans in dreamland over a potential transfer but there is plenty of reason to believe Berge is the real deal.
Donning a colossal 6’4″ frame, there is more to Berge than initially meets the eye. Looks can be deceiving; Berge is not a midfield destroyer equipped with the attributes to shield a Tony Pulis back-line – he is so much more than that.
Like Huddlestone, Berge is a technical talent with the ability to control proceedings from deep, stretching the opposition with 60-yard diagonals and slicing the opponent apart with incisive vision and accurate passing.
A report published by TuttoMercato in December suggested that Genk value Berge at €25 million (£22.3 million) but would only sell him in January on the condition that we would immediately return to the club.
With Genk 7 points clear at the top of the table, it’s easy to sympathise with their standpoint, as his performances have been pivotal to their success so far this season.
TT Grade: A –
Frenkie de Jong
De Jong is the player Spurs would prefer if they were handed the choice between him and Berge, but reported interest from heavyweight giants Manchester City, PSG and Barcelona (as per Daily Telegraph) suggests they stand little chance of luring him to the club.
A recent report from the Daily Mirror claimed that Spurs will target the Ajax academy product as a replacement for Christian Eriksen, but his style of play suggests he is better suited to a deeper-lying role.
It’s difficult to pin down exactly what De Jong’s most natural position is, but his elusive style and tendency to drop deep to instigate attacks suggest he is not a like-for-like replacement for Eriksen.
There is a very good reason why De Jong is the most coveted young midfielders on the continent right now, but interest from Europe’s superclubs and an astronomical price-tag will surely force Spurs to turn their attention elsewhere.
TT Grade: A+
Both of the aforementioned talents would be excellent additions to Tottenham’s squad, but the fact PSG have already reportedly told Ajax they are prepared to pay £67 million for De Jong suggests Levy will be priced out of a deal.
On current form De Jong is the better player of the two aspiring midfielders but, in terms of value for money, Berge is exactly the sort of bargain acquisition Levy should be looking at with serious interest.
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