Tanguy Ndombele has been a frustrating player for Tottenham ever since the club splashed out a record £55million transfer fee for his services two
Tanguy Ndombele has been a frustrating player for Tottenham ever since the club splashed out a record £55million transfer fee for his services two years ago. The French midfielder has shown flashes of brilliance, but has never been able to sustain it, with fitness issues, injuries and fallings out more frequent occurrences than goals and assists.
Spurs were ready to cut their losses over the summer, with director of football Fabio Paratici actively exploring ways to get his £200,000-per-week wages off the books.
Ndombele was ready to move on too and saw Nuno Espirito Santo’s arrival as a good opportunity to get his dream move away from north London.
He was dreaming big. According to The Athletic, Ndombele believed that he could get a move to a side like Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.
Needless to say, that eventuality did not come to pass. The 24-year-old remains at Tottenham and on Thursday night fans got their first sighting of him on the pitch as Nuno gave him a start against Rennes in the Europa Conference League.
Rennes manager Bruno Genesio knows all about what Ndombele can do, given the chance, when in the right physical condition and frame of mind, having coached him during his two years at Lyon.
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And it seemed as though the Spurs midfielder was a man on a personal mission to prove his worth in Brittany in what was his first start for the club since April. The 2-2 draw was hardly ideal, but there were positives to pick out for Nuno.
Having seen enough to whet their appetite, the majority of Tottenham fans are sympathetic to Ndombele’s cause. They want him to succeed and bring his unique style of play to the fore for Nuno.
Last weekend’s 3-0 thrashing by Crystal Palace showed just why there is such good will behind him. Spurs were lacklustre, uninspired and unimaginative at Selhurst Park, and while Japhet Tanganga’s red card didn’t help things, it was not the root of all their troubles either.
Nuno fielded a midfield of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp and Harry Winks and was not rewarded: Spurs had 37 per cent of the ball, two shots and just one on target.
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Dele Alli has reemerged as a creative force under Nuno, but was nowhere to be seen against Palace.
Against Rennes, we didn’t have to make do with the idea of Ndombele; we saw the reality of what he can do.
Tottenham’s opening goal after 11 minutes was extremely fortunate, coming via Rennes defender Loic Bade, but the build-up was eye-catching.
Ndombele pulled out a backheel on the touchline to Harry Kane, who spun the ball in behind the Rennes defence for Lucas Moura to chase and it was the Brazilian’s attempted cross which had the good fortune to go in off Bade.
Flavien Tait equalised following a one-two on the edge of the Tottenham box before the break and it looked like a nightmare evening for Spurs when Gaetan Laborde tapped in a rebound after Pierluigi Gollini split Kamaldeen Sulemana’s shot in the second half.
There was plenty more from Ndombele, who looked like he was trying to put together a personal highlights reel, with surging runs, flicks and tricks aplenty, before he was substituted in the 78th minute for Alli.
Another substitute, Hojbjerg, spared Nuno’s blushes with a neat finish from a deflected cross and ensured all attention can now turn to Sunday’s match against Chelsea.
Ndombele did not score, or assist, but he will be hoping he did enough to show his new manager what he can offer the side.
Nuno is a pragmatic coach and is unlikely to go full gung-ho against a side as cohesive and dangerous as Chelsea, but he should, at the very least, be encouraged by Ndombele’s performance.
Steven Bergwijn and Lucas were both forced off through injuries in France, while Son Heung-min was once again missing, perhaps limiting Nuno’s options this weekend.
Now fit and firing, Ndombele has the chance to start yet another comeback in what is just his third season with Spurs.
A home game against bitter rivals Chelsea is as good an opportunity as any in which to win people over.