All good things must come to an end, eventually. Don’t be sad that it’s over, Tottenham fans, smile because it happened.
That particular old adage might yet be applicable this summer with Mousa Dembele repeatedly linked with a move away from North London either to the Chinese Super League or the Italian Serie A.
The Belgian’s current deal with Tottenham expires in 2019 and the club are reluctant to offer the injury-prone midfielder an extension.
RealSport take a look at why Italy would be the ideal destination should Dembele leave the club.
The pace of the game
As Dembele approaches the twilight of his career, a majority of which he spent in England with Fulham and then Tottenham, his physicality will inevitably escape him.
You can run, but you can’t hide in the Premier League and age eventually catches up, resulting in a loss of strength, speed and general athleticism.
Some players have the physical attributes to succeed in the Premier League beyond the age of 30 but Dembele doesn’t.
By no means is this a criticism of the Belgian’s phenomenal all-round game. Rather it is a matter-of-fact statement that Dembele suffered from repeat injuries which took their heavy toll on his body.
For Dembele to utilise his unique skillset fully, a move to a slower-paced league would do him wonders.
This is what recommends Serie A. Italy and European football in general: the pace is significantly slower than that played in England and Dembele would consequently thrive.
A large part of Dembele’s game are his surging runs from deep as a means of progressing the ball and his fantastic ball retention skills, hence relying on strength. For instance, the 30-year-old was only dispossessed once per game in the Premier League.
Speed, therefore, has never been a major factor in what makes him a footballing “genius,” according to current manager Mauricio Pochettino.
As one of the strongest players in the Premier League, a top-flight famous for its physicality, Dembele in Italy would have the semblance of a competitive bodybuilder in his local amateur weightlifting class.
What’s to come
To support the theory that Dembele would thrive in Italy, we can draw upon experience: in particular, the Belgian’s two games against Juventus in the Round of 16 of this season’s Champions League.
After a fairly anonymous first half to the campaign, Dembele reminded the world of what makes him so special with two brilliant showings against the Italian champions and 2016/17 Champions League runners-up.
In the first leg, particularly, Dembele made the most passes of any player (101), the most dribbles (8) and the most tackles (5) of any Tottenham player.
Moreover, a testament to his ball retention skills is the fact he didn’t give the ball away once in that game.
Tottenham fans don’t want to see Dembele leave, but it’s just the right time. He’s now in his 30s and unfortunately injury prone. Relying on such a player is simply unsustainable beyond another season.
Despite some games in which he’s absolutely unplayable, the Belgian has also had a noticeable wane in performances, such as the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United and the league games to follow. When that begins to happen to a player branded a genius, it’s time to move on.
Tottenham need a midfielder more reliable and consistently fit, whilst Dembele should find a way to prolong his career at the highest level.
Should Mousa Dembele leave Spurs this summer? Would Italy be the right destination? Let us know in the comments section below.
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