Ranking Spurs’ seven returning loanees by how likely they are to end up being Like A New Signing

Dave Tickner
Lo Celso discusses Spurs

One of our favourite early-season things is the player who comes in from the cold and ends up being Like A New Signing. It is of course actually impossible for any player to really be like a new signing, but that doesn’t mean people won’t say it and believe it and that makes it almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. It exists because enough people believe it does, despite being obvious nonsense. Like God.

Now to let you behind the curtain a bit here, our original plan was to go through all the teams looking for likely suspects for Like A New Signing status, or LANS as we’ve dubbed it, but then we realised an absurd number of the best ones were all at Spurs. Then two of them scored in a pre-season game Spurs somehow contrived to lose against West Ham in Perth despite spending about 83 of the 90 minutes paddling the Hammers, and our course was set.

Spurs are a perfect LANS storm right now. They often are, let’s be fair. But right now they’ve got a new, progressive manager trying to reintroduce some actual viable football to a squad that has been negged by serial winner miserabilists for four years. It’s also a bloated squad, the overhauling of which is long overdue and cannot possibly be completed in a single summer.

They will not be able to bring in all the different players they obviously need. They will not be able to offload all the different players they no longer want. They have a manager who wants to do things completely differently to the last three blokes, and much more the way the fella who actually signed some of these lads wanted to do it.

Spurs’ overgrown squad currently contains well over 30 professional footballers. Even if we ignore ones who were at the club but out of favour last season, there are seven players currently in the squad who ended last season somewhere else on loan. Seven! And it would be eight if they hadn’t already managed to sell Harry Winks.

So there it is. Seven players back in the fold, back in from the cold. One of these lads is going to go fully LANS, so we’ve obviously ranked them based on how good we reckon their chances are. Surely we can all agree that what we want is to wake up on, say, August 26 to assorted think-pieces pondering whether Spurs even really need to sign a centre-back given the early-season form of Joe Rodon.

Maybe we’ll also do this for some other clubs as well, but it’s going to feel like slim pickings everywhere else compared to this lot…


7) Destiny Udogie
Takes last place here on a technicality because can you truly be Like A New Signing when really you are in fact just a new signing? The old buy-and-loan-straight-back-for-a-bit is a well-used tactic and surely precludes any player from being truly considered for LANS status. That said, a lot of Spurs fans will have forgotten they bought him, he does look really good and potentially capable of being a pretty regular member of the starting XI and scored a clever goal against West Ham.

If we were comfortable he truly fulfilled the LANS brief then he’d be top of the pile for sure. But we aren’t because he doesn’t and that’s that. He falls at the first hurdle and must therefore accept last place here.


6) Joe Rodon
Pros: plays in the position where Spurs are most conspicuously and desperately weak. Cons: all that applied last season, and he was still so far off the first-team picture that he was sent out on loan. Postecoglou might do incredible things for any one of Spurs’ assorted drifters and outcasts, but if gets Rodon anywhere near Like A New Signing territory then Big Ange is some kind of Australian warlock. A wizard, if you will. A wizard of Oz. No, you fuck off.


5) Tanguy Ndombele
Oh just imagine it, though. He’s a Serie A winner, don’t you know. Imagine if for his next trick he turns into the game-breaking midfield colossus we know lurks deep within him and starts just running the show behind that undeniably electric front four. It would require Ange and Spurs to lean fully into the ‘we’re gonna score one more than you’ philosophy that may well be their calling card anyway, but there’s no other club where that would be more on-brand than Spurs.

The only teensy, weensy drawbacks are that Postecoglou’s aggressive teams require absolute commitment, buy-in and above all full-blooded effort from all concerned and Ndombele is already, once again, injured. It’s a lovely dream, a beguiling idea, but it is surely no more than that.


4) Sergio Reguilon
Had his old number 3 shirt back against West Ham, which has to be a good sign. Fucked up for the opening goal, which probably isn’t. He’s a determinedly front-foot player and this is going to be an enormously entertaining (one way or the other) front-foot team but it still feels like he’s just maybe a bit too much. If anything, Clive.

Remember when the Spurs lads all decided to play cricket and Reguilon, despite not really knowing what was going on, got real into it and was running around having a lovely time and being all overexcited but not actually much help or use to anyone? It was adorable, but it is also not really that far removed from his approach to football. Postecoglou’s football is fun, but he remains quite a serious man. Reguilon’s football is fun but entirely unserious. We just don’t quite see it.


3) Bryan Gil
Didn’t feature against West Ham, still suffers from the same problem of operating in a position where Spurs have other, conspicuously better players. Whatever faults Spurs have – and those faults remain legion – they don’t really exist in the front three where Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Dejan Kulusevski and even Richarlison are all to be found on the regular and where actual for real new signing James Maddison could also operate.

We’d really like to be wrong about this one because Bryan is a bit of a throwback. And not just because he resembles, as it is obligatory to note before getting more than 150 words in to any discussion of the poor sod, all four of the Beatles at once, but for relying entirely on his ball skills in an era of really quite large and strong athletes.


2) Djed Spence
Now this is potentially the most exciting one of the lot, isn’t it? We all know and we’ve all seen there is an absolute baller in there. A brilliant right-back who can attack and defend and has absolutely all the toys. The talent is huge and undoubted. What it needs is the right sort of manager to harness it, nurture it and develop it. Steve Cooper was the right sort of manager. Antonio Conte was not the right sort of manager. Postecoglou really might be absolutely the right sort of manager.

Spence could be anything. He could 10 months from now be in the Premier League team of the year and a Euros bolter despite playing in a position where England have all the players. Or by the end of January he could be at Ipswich. There are so many possible paths here, and that’s what makes it fun.


1) Giovani Lo Celso
There’s only one drawback here, and yeah, to be fair, it’s a hefty one. He wants out. He’s been buggered about so thoroughly by the assorted proven winner neggers Spurs have had in charge over the last four years that he can’t really be arsed and doesn’t really want to be there. That said, Maddison has been brought in to play a specific CAM role in Postecoglou’s 4-3-3 because Spurs’ other midfielders are workhorses. Admirable ones in some cases, but not creative types.

Lo Celso offers midfield quality and range the squad sorely lacks. At least while Rodrigo Bentancur remains injured, and even he is never going to be a No. 10. Lo Celso might. Unlike all the other names on this list he also has the distinction of having played well for Spurs over really quite a significant period early in his time at the club.

If Big Ange can talk him round and the positive football grabs him by the bollards he could be one of the most Like A New Signings ever. Or he will go to Barcelona, or possibly Saudi Arabia, and Spurs finally seeing him in his best position for 45 minutes against West Ham in a pre-season friendly they still contrived to lose will sting even more.