Maddison is the Eriksen replacement Spurs have craved for years – they might have got a transfer just right

Dave Tickner
James Maddison of Leicester
James Maddison in action for Leicester City

James Maddison for £40m? A superbly round peg for the most alarming round hole in your squad? Spurs have got one right here, haven’t they?

Got to be careful giving Spurs credit for transfer dealings.

Things can go wrong at any club, but few can do it like Spurs. It’s not even a year since they Won The Transfer Window by signing Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic, Djed Spence and Richarlison. Worra trophy indeed.

There was bad luck involved there. Mainly Antonio Conte going a bit insane.

Even so, Spurs went from ‘winning the transfer window’ to ‘typically failing to back their elite manager like typical Spurs’ in the space of a few short months. So let’s be careful, yeah?

Because on the face of it, signing James Maddison for anything around £40m upfront would be just a brilliant bit of business. Obviously, that hasn’t actually happened just yet, which is another reason to be wary. But all the signs suggest it will.

Spurs only got round to appointing a new manager a couple of weeks ago. With that being Ange Postecoglou, who favours an attack-minded, industrious and hard-pressing 4-3-3, it crystallised Spurs’ transfer priorities.

There are other areas of concern because the squad has been left in a ghastly mess, but there were three conspicuous holes in the first XI. Goalkeeper, left-sided centre-back, creative attacking midfielder.

All three were already desperately needed, but the last suddenly become even more important. And it was already probably the hardest one to get right because of the scarcity and desirability of such players. Postecoglou’s style and formation preference leaves no way to paper over the absence of such a player as Spurs often did under Conte thanks chiefly to the absurdity of Harry Kane alongside the combined efforts of assorted wide forwards, wing-backs and sometimes a bit of pre-injury Rodrigo Bentancur.

The Uruguayan’s injury was an overlooked reason why Spurs’ season disappeared down the shitter so spectacularly; with him gone, Spurs’ midfield became a creative wasteland.

And it’s still not entirely clear when exactly he will return. You cannot play a progressive 4-3-3 if your midfield options are Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp, Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr. They are all holders first and creators second if at all. None are goalscorers.

Bentancur’s eventual return from injury would help but only because he is wildly superior to those players and able to offer some creative spark even though it’s not his main forte. He’s still not convincingly a No. 10 type.

The only player in the current squad possibly able to fill that role might be Dejan Kulusevski, who possesses the requisite wit and vision, but it’s never a first-choice option and only creates a new hole to fill further forward.

Maddison solves the problem at a stroke. It’s hard to think of any realistic way Spurs could find a better solution.

Maddison is the right age, homegrown, Premier League-proven, reasonably priced and precisely what they have been missing since Christian Eriksen’s departure three years ago.

Spurs fans know all about an overperforming player in an underperforming team, and Maddison was arguably behind only Kane on that metric last season.

He’s the 10-goal/10-assist kind of playmaker Spurs have craved, and showing they can still for now just about beat Newcastle in a straight transfer fight is also a welcome development for a beleaguered fanbase.

Spurs have taken a gamble with the goalkeeper which may or may not pay off, but there is no such punt about their AM choice. And filling those two crucial positions for an initial outlay of less than 60 million quid before the end of June is a better start to the transfer window than anyone could reasonably have expected of a club who started the month without a manager or director of football.

Maddison is also a signing that mitigates whatever may happen with Kane, who is now being actively pursued by Bayern Munich, which has also piqued the interest of Real Madrid and PSG while Manchester United continue to hope against hope they might have the tiniest chance of getting somewhere with Daniel Levy.

If Kane stays, great. He will once again benefit from the kind of midfield supply line he hasn’t enjoyed for years. The talk now may be all about his relationship with Son but back in the day it was Eriksen who was Kane’s chief creator.

If Kane is sold, at least Spurs are not left with a total creative black hole. Spurs were never likely to instantly replace all his goals whenever he happened to leave – who could? – but at least they won’t miss his creative influence quite so keenly with Maddison around.

The Kane cheat code has always been the fact he’s effectively two elite players in one. Maddison replaces one of those, which is all anyone can reasonably ask. And he just might help Son, Richarlison and Kulusevski go some way to replacing the other.