Tottenham are at a crossroads.
After enjoying a lengthy unbeaten run at the start of 2018, a loss to champions Manchester City and a draw with Brighton was followed by elimination from the FA Cup at the semi-final stage, as Spurs lost 2-1 to Manchester United at Wembley.
Mauricio Pochettino's side also face a nervy run-in, as they look to qualify for the Champions League ahead of fifth-placed Chelsea. To ensure a fourth-place finish they must take eight points from a possible 12.
Whatever the result of their battle for a top-four finish, Spurs remain trophy-less, even though they boast perhaps the finest team the club has seen in the past decade. This summer, then, is key, and it remains to be seen if Daniel Levy will loosen the purse-strings and allow Pochettino to bring in some marquee names.
Goal takes a look at the players who could transform the club into winners, if Levy will let them.
Gareth Bale | Real Madrid
This is the obvious answer. Gareth Bale is unloved at Real Madrid, and has been short of form and fitness this season, leading to newspaper reports suggesting that he will be sold off this summer. Manchester United have long been linked with a mega bid for the Welshman but that interest has cooled since their signing of Alexis Sanchez.
A Spurs reunion, though a slim possibility, could well be on the cards.
It’s very rare that stars align, but signing Bale the summer of a move to a new stadium would give Spurs a huge publicity boost, and would help Daniel Levy recoup some of the fee paid for Bale straight away.
However, that fee is sure to be the sticking point. Levy has never paid above £30 million for one player, and Bale could cost triple that.
Though his skills are undoubted – his explosive pace and thunderous shooting would improve any team in the world – and while he would be welcomed back with open arms, Levy may not see the value in a player who will turn 29 in July.
Mateo Kovacic | Real Madrid
Another player seemingly unloved at Real, Mateo Kovacic has a history of injury problems, but he is just 23 and is already a linchpin in a fine Croatia side alongside Luka Modric.
The midfielder missed both games against Spurs in the Champions League due to injury, but many fans in north London will be familiar with his attributes.
More than just a water carrier, he can ping 40-yard balls across the pitch, and is also exceptional in the tackle. Once he wins the ball back, he knows what to do with it.
Indeed, he would be an exceptional successor to Mousa Dembele in Spurs’ midfield. The Belgium star has flirted with Juventus in recent months, and could well call time on his Tottenham career this summer after yet another exceptional season.
Kovacic coming in would significantly lessen the blow of losing the 30-year-old, and concurrently upgrade the midfield.
Marcus Rashford & Anthony Martial | Manchester United
This entry counts as one because of the treatment both have endured under Jose Mourinho. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are two exceptionally talented attackers, each appearing to have the world at their feet.
However, Mourinho went out and signed Alexis Sanchez in January, and the two have seen first-team opportunities limited ever since.
Bringing just one of them to Tottenham would serve as a marquee signing, and also as a genuine upgrade on the likes of Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, soon to return from a loan at Burnley.
Son Heung-Min has made his name as a left winger and he is a fine one, but he will need to fulfill international obligations with South Korea this season, and securing either Martial or Rashford would lighten that blow significantly, and provide real support to Harry Kane.
The two are both able to play centrally or out wide, and would each give Mauricio Pochettino even greater tactical freedom. Both would surely improve under his management, too.
Malcom | Bordeaux
Malcom has fluttered his eyelashes at seemingly every club in Europe. After first being linked with both Arsenal and Spurs last year, reports claimed that Tottenham made the first move, a rejected bid worth over £30m.
His next destination, then, remains a mystery but it is clear that he is determined to leave this summer, and Spurs need a player of his ability. The pool of wingers at the club currently is not deep on quality, with both Moussa Sissoko and Erik Lamela regularly flattering to deceive.
The signing of Lucas Moura has alleviated the strain but he is one for next season; Malcom can beat opponents one-on-one – only Son Heung-Min and, to a lesser extent, Mousa Dembele offers this for Spurs currently – and also play difficult passes at high speed. He has the effect of a playmaker constantly on the move, and would offer a different, versatile option from the flanks.
Pochettino’s side have regularly been linked with a move for Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha but Malcom is four years younger, and, arguably, already better. He may be more expensive, but he would represent far greater value.
Ryan Sessegnon | Fulham
Danny Rose’s time at Spurs is up. After an explosive interview last summer in which he proclaimed “I know what I’m worth”, and appeared to allude to a potential move to Manchester United, Pochettino has doled out some discipline, benched the England international, and installed Ben Davies as his firm No.1 choice at left-back.
Rose is likely to depart this summer, and that means that a replacement is sorely needed – Davies has excelled this season but he will need support.
Ryan Sessegnon would thus be a perfect, sensible signing. Aged just 17, Sessegnon already has a number of admirers – United are the latest linked – and it is not hard to see why. He has scored 15 goals this season from a full-back position and won both the Championship Player of the Year and the Championship Young Player of the Year awards.
He has been likened to Gareth Bale, and there have been serious suggestions that he could well be a wildcard inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the World Cup.
If Sessegnon is to reach his full potential, he could not ask for a better manager than Pochettino, who has already turned Luke Shaw, Rose and Davies into outstanding Premier League full-backs.
Sessegnon will not come cheap, such is the interest in him, but he could solve Spurs’ left-back issue for the next decade.