By Harry Sherlock
“Ultimately, I want to test myself against the best and the Premier League is where I dream about playing,” Eric Dier said in 2010. Now, having caught the attention of Maurico Pochettino, the central defender has been given the chance to shine at Tottenham in the Premier League.
A frustrating loan spell at Everton aside, in which he struggled to break into the first-team, Dier's career has largely flown under the radar. One of few Englishmen to head abroad at an early age, Dier graduated from Sporting Lisbon's academy, famed for such star-studded alumni as Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo.
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Only 20, Spurs have agreed a £4 million deal to acquire his signature, with Pochettino hoping the six-foot two-inch defender can provide cover at right-back and defensive midfield, while pushing the likes of Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul for a spot in the centre of defence.
He will need little time to acclimatise, given that his strength lies in his European experience. While the Portuguese league cannot be compared to the Premier League in terms of quality, the former is a division which strikers are encouraged to niggle at defenders throughout the 90 minutes.
Dier himself admits he has grown used to that, and so is unlikely to be shocked by the physical approaches of the likes of Rickie Lambert and Wilfried Bony when Spurs go on the road.
"In England the forward will jump for the header with you but in Portugal they'll be niggling around you and trying to keep you on the ground - not even looking at the ball," he said.
Dier has a foot in both countries – his spell at Everton undoubtedly served to toughen him up – and he believes his grounding in Portugal will help him fulfil his potential in future seasons.
Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “Football-wise, I think it is great to come and play abroad. It makes you a more complete player in my opinion.”
Born in Cheltenham, Dier headed to Portugal at the age of six and was quickly snapped up by Sporting. Promoted to the first-team last season, Dier went on to make 15 appearances, as Sporting finished second in the Primeira Liga.
His composed style of play has drawn comparisons with John Terry and he appears destined to become a full England international, having already made seven Under-21 appearances. He has also appeared at Under-20, 19 and 18 level, and is now a regular under Gareth Southgate.
At Spurs he is likely to go from strength to strength. A remarkably down-to-earth youngster, Dier has taken sensible steps in his career so far, even staying in Portugal following his parents' decision to head home in 2010.
Fluent in Portuguese, Dier has been linked with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool, though he has resisted their advances so far – reasoning young players can struggle to make an impact in England, given the large number of foreign players.
However, he appears to be making the smart choice in joining Spurs. Pochettino is an advocate of the 'if you're good enough, you're old enough' mantra and Dier is likely to be afforded a number of first-team opportunities in north London.
On current evidence, Dier is a raw talent. With only one full season behind him, he is far from the finished article but Spurs is a place where talents can develop and thrive – as evidenced by the meteoric rise of Gareth Bale and the steady progress made by Nabil Bentaleb and Harry Kane.
Dier is already fulfilling one dream by heading to the Premier League and has set his sights on a spot in Roy Hodgson's full England squad, saying: “I think it is the dream of any kid to play for England and play for your country.”
Hodgson has frequented White Hart Lane in recent seasons. Should Dier impress, a Three Lions call-up may not be too far away.