Nacer Chadli may not be the glamour signing that Spurs fans have been craving this summer, but the Belgian-Moroccan winger has all the potential to be a valuable asset to the Lilywhites. This article explores the wide man in the context of similar North African talents and analyses what he might bring to White Hart Lane.
Football’s landscape is currently filled with creative attacking talent of North African origin. In fact, this could be considered something of a golden era for the production of talent from this part of the world, even if the national sides of Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt aren’t always benefitting directly.
These players fall into key categories respective of place of birth and international representation. There are those, such as Ryan Boudebouz who are born in a European nation but choose to represent the land of their forefathers. There are players such as QPR’s Adel Taarabt who, despite being raised predominantly in the academies and youth systems of Europe, choose also to play for the nation of their ancestors.
There are those who are born in North Africa, but are suitably seduced by the prospect of representing a power house, that they switch allegiance to their adopted nation. Adam Maher would be an example of this.
Finally, there are players such as Chadli. Those who were born in Europe following the immigration of a family and who have integrated totally into the seams of their adopted nation; Marouane Fellaini provides a perfect parallel.
Despite playing once for the Moroccan national side, back in 2010, Chadli had his nationality switch ratified by FIFA and went on to make his Belgian debut in February 2011. The current Belgian team, so heralded for their great reserves of talent, reflect the cosmopolitan nature of the nation in the 21st century.
Alongside the Moroccan Chadli, you can find the Malian Moussa Dembele, Axel Witsel, whose father has Martiniquais roots, and Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku, both of whom have origins in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A cautionary word, however, comes when considering the fortunes of North African talent who have attempted to take their immense talent to a broader arena. While “Kaliffe” has enjoyed a rise to prominence not atypical for North Africans making their way to major European leagues in recent times, he and Spurs will be concerned that he does not go the same way of other Maghreb talents.
Many of the aforementioned players have been blessed with guile and creativity, but perhaps have not always possessed the prerequisite determination and consistency to make the most of their talents.
Taarabt’s problems have been well-documented, Oussama Assaidi has been anonymous since his move to Liverpool from the Dutch league back in 2012, while Ryan Boudebouz is struggling to rebuild a career wracked by inconsistency and poor form since his early glory days in Sochaux.
Tottenham will be hoping that their versatile attacker can avoid the pitfalls that can come with such regularity and that the 23-year-old can realise the terrific depths of his immense promise.
Early signs are good.
For £7 million Spurs are buying a versatile wide player with big match experience. At times last season Tottenham lacked the guile and nous previously provided by Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart. Lewis Holtby huffed and puffed, Gylfi Sigurdsson brought a ferocious shot and some good movement, while Clint Dempsey occasionally chipped in, despite being forced out into a wide berth, but no one—other than the imperious Gareth Bale of course—offered the ingenuity to prise holes in stubborn defences.
The workmanlike trio of Scott Parker, Sandro and Dembele are all energy and bustle, but none can compare to the vision and creativity that Chadli ought to offer.
He has Champions League experience with FC Twente and, as has been widely reported, scored against Spurs in both of the clubs’ clashes back in 2010.
Nominally a left winger, Chadli could act as a replacement for Bale should the Welsh wizard depart for Real Madrid. However, should the superstar remain at White Hart Lane for another season, the Belgian’s presence could facilitate a favoured shift in-field for Bale.
Chadli has also played for Belgium as a striker, however, and could also be of use to Spurs in this capacity. With Emmanuel Adebayor looking likely to leave the club and the deal for Roberto Soldado not yet confirmed, Tottenham are yet to solve the attacking woes that arguably cost them a Champions League spot last season.
While the employment of Chadli in this position might be another case of the Spurs hierarchy papering over the weaknesses of the squad, Andre Villas-Boas will surely be delighted to add another versatile, technically gifted player to his roster.
Chadli is just the kind of multi-talented individual to be of great benefit to the tinkering of AVB.
Obviously an inferior player to Bale, it is against he that comparisons ought and inevitably will be drawn. At 6’2", Chadli possesses a frame and a presence not dissimilar to Bale and also favours cutting in on his right foot to hurl a pot shot at goal whenever the mood takes him.
Spurs will be hoping their latest acquisition can match the feats of Bale, either as his teammate or as his successor.