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Marseille's Michy Batshuayi Not the Right Transfer Target for Tottenham Hotspur

Marseille's Michy Batshuayi, center,  challenges for the ball with Paris Saint Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, left, and Thiago Motta, during the League One soccer match between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain, at the Velodrome Stadium, in Marseille, southern France, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Claude Paris/Associated Press
Sam RookeFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2016

Tottenham Hotspur look to be likely UEFA Champions League participants next season.

Sitting second in the Premier League with 13 games remaining, Spurs should be good enough to claim one of the top four places by season's end.

Should they succeed in their attempt to return to the top table of European football, Tottenham will need to find reinforcements in the summer.

Mauricio Pochettino has a relatively large, deep squad already, but there are notable weaknesses.

According to Sky Sports' Lyall Thomas, a Spurs source believes Cameron Carter-Vickers has the potential to be a truly great defender. Unless Pochettino is willing to hand the youngster first-team chances, he will need to find new defenders to push the current trio of Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Kevin Wimmer.

The clearest weakness, though, is in attack.

Harry Kane is the only specialist forward, while Heung-Min Son and Nacer Chadli are capable of filling in at the position in a pinch.

French sports newspaper L'Equipe (h/t Metro.co.uk's Jamie Sanderson) suggested that Marseille striker Michy Batshuayi is in advanced talks over a summer move to White Hart Lane.

The Belgian attacker is positionally flexible and lightning-quick.

The Sun reported that Tottenham have even sent scouts to observe Batshuayi in action.

According to the Guardian's Ed Aarons, Batshuayi was a target in January before signing a new contract with OM. In fact, Batshuayi was linked to Spurs as long ago as 2014 (per DH.be) before he joined Marseille from Standard Liege.

Despite the fact that Batshuayi appears to be a long-term Tottenham target, he is not the right man to chase this summer.

With his clever movement and speed, Batshuayi would contribute many of the same qualities that made West Brom striker Saido Berahino such an obvious target last summer.

Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

He would make a useful foil for Kane, but lacking the strength and aggression of Berahino, he would not be as well-suited to replacing him in the lineup altogether.

In fact, there is little to separate him from Son or Chadli as a stand-in for Kane.

His relative inflexibility should rule him out as a target, but there is another substantial issue. According to the Daily Express' Joe Short, Marseille chairman Jean-Michel Aulas claimed Batshuayi would cost £35 million. That was before he signed a contract extension.

If Aulas were to demand even that same figure, it would be far higher than Spurs are likely willing to go.

Such an immense transfer fee virtually demands a starting position, threatening Kane's until-now undisputed place in Pochettino's team.

Under Marcelo Bielsa in 2014/15, Batshuayi scored nine goals in 26 Ligue 1 appearances. He has improved his return in the current campaign, scoring 12 in 24 games while providing seven assists.

Batshuayi appears to have returned to his true level in recent months. He has more yellow cards (four) than goals (three) since the end of November.

The fact that Marseille lost Andre Ayew and Andre-Pierre Gignac in the summer left Batshuayi as the lone sole striker. OM brought in Lucas Ocampos and Steven Fletcher in January to address their concerns that Batshuayi is not sufficient.

Tottenham's recent return to a transfer policy of identifying value and prioritising experience in English football has served them well.

It would make little sense to risk upsetting the excellent team spirit with a hugely expensive player who has rarely performed with consistency and never been asked to play a role comparable with that which Kane does so well.

Batshuayi has potential to be an excellent player in time.

A £35 million player cannot realistically be given that time.

For significantly less, it would be a worthy gamble, but Spurs already have Clinton Njie in a similar position.

MARSEILLE - FEBRUARY 7: Michy Batshuayi of OM in action during the French Ligue 1 match between Olympique de Marseille (OM) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at New Stade Velodrome on February 7, 2016 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

As Tottenham approach a period of austerity enforced by their ambitious stadium project, they cannot afford to make hugely expensive signings of unproven players.

The risk of Batshuayi struggling to adapt or failing altogether is simply too high when there are numerous alternatives available.

Paul Mitchell, Tottenham's head of recruitment, made his name by finding undervalued transfer targets for Southampton. Since joining Spurs, Mitchell has been involved in the acquisition of low-risk, high-reward players like Dele Alli, and those should be the priority going forward.

Batshuayi may very well come to England and immediately catch fire, but it won't be at Tottenham.

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