If Victor Wanyama’s future at Tottenham Hotspur had appeared uncertain heading into the January transfer window, his chances of returning to his former prominence with Spurs now appear slim.
Things have taken a downturn for the Kenya international in the early days of 2019, at least if reports are to be believed, with The Sun revealing that Mauricio Pochettino is considering a move for AC Milan’s Franck Kessie.
While it may take a reported £36 million to bring the Ivorian powerhouse from Lombardy—and amidst rumoured interest from Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain—the interest may well be evidence that Spurs are planning a serious remodelling of their midfield.
Kessie may yet make his loan move to Milan from Atalanta permanent, particularly if the Rossoneri qualify for the Champions League, but he’d be an ideal fit for the Tottenham midfield.
Spurs already appear to have lost Mousa Dembele this year.
The Belgium international has been an excellent servant to the club, but increasingly injury-prone, and with his contract up this summer, it would be a surprise if he was still with the club for the 2019-20 season.
Kessie would help to fill any void left by Dembele, while he’d also represent an upgrade on Wanyama—both in terms of reliability and quality.
Admittedly, the Ivorian hasn’t truly set the world alight since swapping Atalanta for Milan at the start of last season, but his quality and potential are evident.
He may have missed out on the Goal Africa Team of the Year, but the midfielder has improved his game this term.
Revealed: @Goal Africa Team of the Year 2018: https://t.co/Pq4Ki94y51
Congrats to all nominees and the final XI: @andreyonana, @AchrafHakimi, @kkoulibaly26, @MedhiBenatia, @Thomaspartey22, @MoSalah, @Aubameyang7, @NicolasPepe19, @Bounedjahbaghda pic.twitter.com/TER51gZpNR — Ed Dove (@EddyDove) December 31, 2018
With three goals already, he’s on course to best last year’s tally of five, while he’s averaging a pass-success rate of 88.7 percent this term, an upgrade on last year’s 84.6 percent.
His chance-creation is also up—1.8 key passes per match compared to 1.2—and he’s involved more in Milan’s build-up (54.7 passes per match this term compared to 46.6 in 2017-18) as he adapts to a more expensive game.
Certainly, he’d require time to adapt to the Premier League and to Pochettino’s idiosyncratic approach, but at 22, he certainly has room to grow.
The same cannot be said, unfortunately, for Wanyama, who’s one of several players reportedly deemed surplus to requirements at Wembley during the January transfer window.
Dembele, Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, Vincent Janssen, Fernando Llorente and Wanyama are some of the players reportedly available for transfer over the coming weeks, and with Spurs needing to sell to buy, expect one or two at least to depart.
Wanyama will top that list, with the Kenya international linked with both a move to West Bromwich Albion or a return to Celtic.
Both would represent a backwards step, and it’s unsurprising that the 27-year-old is reportedly keen to remain in London to fight for his place.
However, the link to Kessie ought to just reaffirm how Big Vic is no longer part of Spurs’ future and, on the evidence of recent seasons, he’s a peripheral figure at best in their exciting present.
After making a big impact—and winning many admirers—during his maiden season at the club after leaving Southampton in 2016, injuries have taken their toll on the Harambee Star.
After playing 36 times—amassing 3016 minutes—in his first season at Spurs, fitness problems limited him to just 18 appearances (only eight from the start) and 839 minutes last term.
Even considering Dembele’s injury problems, and absences for Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen, Wanyama’s role has been even more peripheral this term.
He’s made four appearances—only one from the start—with Pochettino preferring even Harry Winks and back-in-favour Moussa Sissoko as midfield options.
Indeed, while Wanyama’s stature at the club has faded, the aforementioned duo have grown in prominence, with Winks’ measured, methodical approach complementing Sissoko’s dynamism.
At this point, the East African’s desire to remain at the club and fight for his place appears to be a decision of the heart rather than the head.
Considering his fall from grace, even a loan move to either of his would-be suitors could afford him the opportunity to remind Pochettino just why he was previously one of the manager’s favourites.
At 27, it’s not too late for Wanyama to become the Spurs hero that so many had anticipated when he first signed for the club, but particularly with Kessie on the horizon, his star appears to be dimming.