Good evening everyone,
Today we’re going to talk about Tanguy Ndombele and settling in at Tottenham Hotspur.
A week rarely goes by without the Frenchman being linked to a new club. This week, it’s Inter Milan with claims that Spurs are in talks with the Serie A outfit over the young midfielder’s departure.
Those inside Tottenham are bewildered by all the speculation, claiming that not only are talks not on the agenda but the club is well aware that the player needs time to adapt to a new country, moving away from his family and an understanding that he’s been beset by injury issues.
There’s a real belief inside the club that Ndombele can become a superstar and that initial teething problems were always anticipated, which is why he was handed a six-year deal with the intention of him being a long-term signing for the club.
It’s easy to forget that the young Frenchman is only 23, having arrived a year ago to a fast and physical league that is very different to Ligue 1.
He has also had to pick up the language. I was in a group of three journalists who conducted the first interview with Ndombele last July, during the first few days of the pre-season tour in Singapore.
With the new club record signing still uncomfortable with his use of the English language, we roped in Moussa Sissoko to help with the translation.
It worked well – the two enjoy a brotherly relationship which kept things light – and I managed to get the only two words of English Ndombele has uttered all season to the British media.
“Very hard”, he said with a laugh when I asked how he was finding Mauricio Pochettino’s infamous pre-season training sessions.
While he was perfectly amiable with us on a baking hot afternoon in Singapore, Ndombele does not appear to be a fan of interviews or the media.
Unless I’ve missed one, he has not spoken to the English press since that day a year ago and only stopped once or twice for French journalists in the mixed zone in the stadium during Pochettino’s era.
Even interviews with the club’s in-house media channels are rare, one he did midway through the season came again with Sissoko by his side.
That quiet persona, away from the limelight, perhaps adds to the enigma that is Ndombele.
Those within the club believe that, unlike the midfielder, the people around him are quick to go to the media in France whenever the opportunity arises, often when he’s left out of a starting line-up, which results in all of the speculation surrounding his future.
At the end of the day though it comes down to a young player settling in and adapting to a new country.
There’s a belief – we’re all guilty of it – that the bigger the fee, the more likely a new signing should hit the ground running.
Maybe it’s governed by us all playing games like FIFA or Football Manager or perhaps it’s just a by-product of the excitement a club record signing brings.
However, in the real world it just doesn’t work like that and a large number of new signings need varying lengths of times to settle and show their best.
Spurs know that very well. Son Heung-min asked to leave the club at the end of his first season to return to Germany after struggling to get in the team regularly and adapting to the country. It was only a chat with Pochettino that changed his mind.
At Tottenham, the likes of Luka Modric, Hugo Lloris. Erik Lamela, Davinson Sanchez and Sissoko have all been high profile signings given time to adapt, the latter coming with Premier League experience.
That’s because there’s also an adaptation period for new signings who aren’t coming from foreign climes.
Players from abroad have the culture adaptation on top of it, and often have to do it without their family.
Even a Welshman in Gareth Bale took a while to settle at Spurs, holding a record in his first year or so of having never played in a winning team before eventually becoming one of the world’s best.
Ultimately it’s down to that word ‘patience’, one that can be hard to find in football.
It’s not only the fans and the clubs that lose sight of it, but often also the players.
They’re young and they think things won’t change, they won’t get better and they’ll never feel at home but as Son found out, it happens as long as you commit to it.
Pochettino knew it about Ndombele just two months into the season, even if it was something the fans did not want to hear.
“We cannot assess him enough to say he is doing well or not so well,” said the Argentine.
“For me it’s fantastic the things he adds to the team, I am so happy with him like I am so happy with different players.
“Still for me, when you sign a player, despite the amount you pay, with the profile of Tanguy Ndombele or Giovani Lo Celso or Ryan Sessegnon you need minimum one year and a half, or two years.
“Look at what happened with Son or Sissoko, they started to perform in year two, year three. That is why when you are so young, today the market is the market, you cannot judge the player because you paid some kind of amount.
“He played two years in Lyon and moved to England where everything is new, but the quality is there. They need time to show their real quality.”
Tottenham believe they have a potential world class talent in Tanguy Ndombele and that he will come good. Hopefully the young Frenchman realises it as well.
Catch you next week,