Tottenham Should Consider Selling Belgian Midfielder Mousa Dembele

Sam Rooke@@SamRooke89Featured ColumnistJuly 6, 2015

Tottenham Hotspur's Mousa Dembele, top, and Sydney FC Mickael Tavares leap to head the ball during their friendly match in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, May 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Glenn Nicholls)
Glenn Nicholls/Associated Press

Tottenham are in the process of a significant squad overhaul. 

Manager Mauricio Pochettino enjoyed a successful first season in charge and, after lifting his side to fifth place by season's end, had the chance to decide which of his players were suited to the task at hand and which required replacing.

The sales of Paulinho and Lewis Holtby have cleared the decks somewhat in midfield, but replacements will need to be sought. 

Both were unsuited to Pochettino's team. They lacked consistency and were neither athletic enough to play a supporting role nor creative enough to play further forward. Certainly, neither possessed the strength and discipline necessary to play a purely defensive role. 

The arrival of Kieran Trippier and Kevin Wimmer improves the quality of option in defence, but that too remains a work in progress. Spurs' pursuit of Toby Alderweireld continues to take remarkable turns, but he too would add starch to what was a weak point last season. 

Paul Mitchell, Daniel Levy and the scouting team are certainly working to bring in other replacements, but they will also be considering additional sales. 

While players such as Paulinho proved they were not up to the task, others left a less clear picture of their place in the squad.

Mousa Dembele is probably the best example of this. 

He gave a few standout performances and a comparable number of forgettable ones. 

He scored just once, against Liverpool, and registered just a single assist. 

Before Christmas, he seemed destined for the scrapheap. 

A debilitating series of hip injuries appeared to have taken their toll on his previously top-drawer athleticism and balance. 

His performance in Spurs' Europa League group-stage defeat to Besiktas in Istanbul must rank among the lowest points in his career. There seemed no coming back for him from that point. 

However, he admirably fought his way back into Pochettino's squad and carved out a role for himself as a substitute. A calming influence late in games, Dembele brought some maturity and poise to a young Tottenham team. 

At the same time, he contributed little else. 

Spurs have three central midfielders returning to the club from loan spells for the upcoming campaign. 

Dele Alli, who is yet to actually play for Spurs, was a star for MK Dons last season and will be certain of a squad place this year. 

Tom Carroll and Alex Pritchard, both more experienced than Alli, are also likely to push for Premier League appearances in the coming season.

The addition of those three to the squad intensifies the competition for places in Tottenham's midfield. 

The presence of almost-certain starters Nabil Bentaleb and Christian Eriksen only complicates matters. 

Their potential and continued growth demands selection whenever possible, which means there is only one realistic place available in the starting XI. 

There is even the likes of Etienne Capoue and Benjamin Stambouli who are superior options if Pochettino opts to deploy a "destroyer."

Ryan Mason was Pochettino's preferred option as the hybrid midfielder last season and won't have dropped in his manager's estimation over the summer. 

Dembele certainly does not demand selection with his limited output. 

He will be 28 before the season begins and is likely at his peak. There is little reason to believe he will blossom beyond what he has already shown. 

If Spurs add further to their squad during the transfer window, Dembele's days at White Hart Lane will be numbered.

He is as talented as any of Spurs' best players, but he does not put his ability to nearly as much use as many of his team-mates and rivals.

Given that Dembele is not a strong enough player to force his way into the team nor likely to develop much beyond his current level, he is not worth keeping if Spurs receive a reasonable offer.

Dembele is clearly aware of the situation, having told the Mirror that he will talk about his future with Pochettino when he returns for pre-season training.  

He told Belgian outlet Sporza (via HITC.com) that he aspires to play for Bayern Munich, and he may well be talented enough to do so, but his mentality doesn't match those aspirations. 

Dembele is almost certain to be required to accept a step down from Spurs' level if he seeks regular first-team football.   

According to Transfermarkt, Dembele's value has fallen from €21 million to €15 million in the last two years. He remains a valuable asset but not one that is appreciating.

A sale at this point could still generate a profit on the £15 million that Spurs paid Fulham to bring him across London in 2012.

That outcome would be best for both Spurs and their player. 

Dembele enjoyed an impressive debut season in north London but has since fallen away. There is little chance of him rediscovering his best form with Spurs, and a move away would provide an opportunity to blossom once again. 

Spurs, too, would benefit from a quick sale this summer. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 15: Manager Mauricio Pochettino of Spurs sends on Mousa Dembele of Spurs as a first half substitute for the beleaguered Andros Townsend of Spurs  during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Tottenham
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Pochettino has proven both at Tottenham and his previous clubs that he is a strong believer in the notion that a player who is good enough is old enough; he has no fear of selecting unproven youngsters ahead of seasoned professionals. 

If Dembele remains at the club next season, he will continue to drop down the squad's pecking order. 

It will not be a disaster if Spurs cannot shift him. He will still add something to the side but is unlikely to be anything more than third or fourth choice in his preferred position. 

The so-called showdown talks between Pochettino and Dembele will likely bear this out. 

The departure of one of Spurs' Belgian contingent will be a disappointment for the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Nacer Chadli and (possibly) Alderweireld, but it seems certain that such a move would be for the best.

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