Given that Tottenham’s transfer activity this summer has focused almost exclusively on backline reinforcements – with Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer and Keiran Trippier all arriving – it should come as no surprise that Mauricio Pochettino will divert his attention to bolstering his offensive options with the window of opportunity for doing so getting smaller by the day.
With less than three weeks until the transfer deadline makes its yellow-tickered arrival, Saido Berahino and Javier Hernandez are two Premier League names consistently linked with a move to White Hart Lane.
But more recent reports suggest that Pochettino’s first forward through the door will be a name familiar to French football fans. With talks thought to be at an advanced stage, Lyon’s Cameroon international Clinton N’Jie is the Ligue 1 player Spurs are targeting to add some much needed pace to their attack.
A fee of £10m should be enough to persuade Lyon to sell the 21-year-old, who scored seven goals in the French top flight last season, mostly from out wide in support of the prolific Alexandre Lacazette.
Most Premier League supporters will be more familiar with Lacazette, with him finishing as the France’s top scorer as well as Ligue 1 player of the year. So with Spurs aiming for the former and not the latter, their fans may be wondering why the player who scored 27 goals is being overlooked in favour of the one who bagged seven.
So how does Tottenham’s French scouting system stack up in recent years?
Unlike a club like Newcastle, for example, France is not a market that Spurs have explored too often. In fact you can count the number of imports arriving from across the channel on two hands.
Their most recent purchase from Ligue 1 doesn’t offer too much hope initially. Benjamin Stambouli, a £4.6m buy from Montpellier, signed last September but the defensive midfielder made just 12 appearances and four starts before returning to France, signing for PSG for £6m. Aside from the surprising £1.3m profit made on him inside a year, this move can be chalked down as a failure on the pitch.
Next up then is Etienne Capoue, who joined from Toulouse for £7.7m as part of a raft of signings that occurred in the wake of Gareth Bale’s big money departure. Despite being a full French international and arriving with a fantastic reputation as a robust and energetic defensive midfielder, Capoue managed only 24 appearances and a single goal before his move to Watford last month.
With Spurs’ recent foray in to France showing just 36 appearances for the grand sum of around £13m, it might surprise many to learn that’s where they intend to return to bolster their frontline. But it’s not just a kind Euro exchange rate that’s tempting them of course, it’s the man they have between the sticks.
When Hugo Lloris signed from Lyon for what now appears a meagre £8.8m in August 2012, few people saw this is signing as a risk. Lloris was by then the undoubted French number one, a cup winner with Lyon and a Champions League veteran. The only surprise that Spurs fans feel when discussing their Mr Reliable, is that he’s still at the club.
One can be sure that the day the stopper does leave, it will be for a hell of a lot more than £8.8m. If judged right, the value for money in Ligue 1 is arguably the best in Europe. But Lloris is not the sole Spurs example of such, and not the only reason why Daniel Levy will be happy to send his cheque to France.
Younes Kaboul enjoyed two semi-successful spells at White Hart Lane when Spurs brought the 21-year-old over from Auxerre for around £8m in 2007. Didier Zokora soon became a fans favourite in midfield when he arrived for a similar price from St Etienne in 2006, making over 100 appearances in three seasons. Benoit Assou-Ekotto is arguably the value pick of the lot, offering Spurs around seven years of service at left back for just £3.5m from Lens.
Adel Taarabt showed flashes of brilliance in his nine appearances at White Hart Lane, but his best would be saved for QPR’s promotion campaign as the mercurial Moroccan largely flattered to deceive in north London. Nonetheless at just £2.8m, Spurs could afford to take the risk.
Similarly, the likes of Dorian Dervite (£1m from Lille), Teemu Tainio (free from Auxerre) and Noe Pamarot (£1.6m from Nice) are Ligue 1 imports that have failed to make any great impression in the white of Spurs.
But with the fees comparably low-risk to equivalent signings from the Premier League or Spain, it’s no wonder Tottenham are happy to chance a French forage if every now and then it unearths a Lloris, Zokora or Assou-Ekotto.
Mauricio Pochettino and Daniel Levy, will be hoping N’Jie will be added to that list this time next season.