Even if the news of Tottenham Hotspur’s huge attempt to sign Davinson Sanchez was met with a sigh and a quick Google search from Danny Rose, the left-back must admit the club's €40 million capture of the Ajax star shows they have high ambitions.
Since his arrival in Europe a year ago, the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain have joined Barcelona in showing an interest in the 20-year-old, who has gained attention as one of the most promising defenders around. However, it is Spurs who jumped ahead of the queue with the right offer.
In Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen, Spurs have a successful contingent of ex-Ajax stars in their ranks already. In Sanchez, they have made an investment in a player capable of becoming a world-class star.
One season after they bought him, Ajax demanded at least eight times what they paid for Sanchez, but that Tottenham were willing to meet the €40m valuation sent the Amsterdam side scrambling to keep their player of the year.
Technical director Marc Overmars confirmed they had offered him a big contract in response to the interest, and it is telling of Sanchez’s quality and importance that the Dutch side were desperate to pass up a big offer and spend more to convince him to stay.
Ajax had no need to sell, having allowed Davy Klaassen to leave for €27m a year after they got €33m for Arkadiusz Milik among a few other decent sales. Intent on building on their promising 2016-17 campaign, Sanchez was a vital component and losing him will leave a massive crevice in the back line they cannot afford to deal with in inexperienced coach Marcel Keizer’s first season.
The Colombia international arrived in the Dutch capital from Atletico Nacional last summer as a Copa Libertadores champion. Barcelona had tried to sign him for their B team, but he opted for Amsterdam.
“Ajax are known in South America as the gateway to a beautiful career in Europe,” he told Voetbal International in April. “I just got here. I want to be of great value to the club before taking the next step.”
His immediate impact in Peter Bosz’s team made it clear that the next step wasn’t far away. As he developed over the season and became essential to their strong Eredivisie and Europa League challenges, interest from giants across Europe grew.
“He is by nature a true defender,” Bosz said in September. Former captain Klaassen called him “a beast”, adding: “I understand why he has been linked with top clubs. He has the stature, the power.”
Ferocious and daring, the “spirited defender” goes straight for the ball as he charges into tackles and throws his whole body into opponents or slides in desperately to eradicate the danger.
He can be overzealous in getting into the action, however, which leaves big spaces behind him. Nice capitalised on that in the second-leg of their Champions League qualifier this season.
As the French side pushed into Ajax’s half, Sanchez followed the ball to the wing, but a quick combination saw them round him and go straight through the gap he had left behind and open the scoring as the Dutch team were subsequently eliminated.
On the other hand, he was often the one rescuing defensive partner Matthijs de Ligt when the 17-year-old lost his man or was caught out of position, and Keizer’s men did not fare well without him when they started the new Eredivisie campaign with a 2-1 loss to Heracles.
“He is so super strong, a killer, but also an adventurer,” De Ligt said. “It's great to play with him in defence.”
The biggest adjustment he had to make was dealing with the technical requirements of Ajax defenders. Given he was a midfielder until about four years ago, that has been no huge issue. In possession, he is comfortable and plays with his head up, and if he can’t find a pass, he is happy to charge forward and unleash a shot.
The 1.87m tall player had been an asset in attack. He had scored just once in his career before joining Ajax, but has netted seven since. Among those have been an overhead kick past Tim Krul and a low screamer from outside the box. He already opened his account this season when he lunged in to equalise against Nice.
The Caloto-born defender will take time to adapt to the huge jump from the Eredivisie to challenging for the top spots in the English top-flight, but given Spurs already have a settled defence, he will have time to adapt to the speed and intensity, while Pochettino can coach some tactical discipline into him.
Already at a high level and developing quickly, though, Danny Rose can be assured Tottenham have signed a real gem in Davinson Sanchez.