Why Tottenham target Ryan Sessegnon needs freedom to develop at Fulham

Fulham owner Shahid Khan told the media that the 18-year-old will "be at Fulham for the coming year."


 REUTERS/Tony O’Brien

“Sessegnon has done beautifully and… OHHH CAIRNEY PUTS IT AWAY!”

18. Years. Old.

Unfaltering under pressure to control an initially poor pass, then get his head up and spot Tom Cairney’s run. The vision, the weight. Everything. It was perfection.

Ryan Sessegnon is perfection.

Fulham’s top scorer turned provider in the Championship playoff final, unphased by the magnitude of the occasion and the reverberating racket of the intense atmosphere at England’s 90,000-seater national stadium, to set up the most expensive goal in English football.

This is just one miniature microcosm reflecting the wider picture of Sessegnon’s season. The teenager was Fulham’s top scorer, with 18 Championship goals and eight assists, involved in all three of the Cottagers’ playoff goals.

REUTERS/Tony O’Brien

Truthfully, he was subdued for a majority of the final, but collected when the opportunity arose. To have the concentration -and awareness- to so exquisitely make that pass is indicative of a burgeoning maturity transcending his youthful exterior.

At first glance, the reported £50 million fee for a Championship player seems somewhat extortionate, but this is no ordinary Championship player. Sessegnon epitomises the extra to your ordinary.

The double-edged sword

Is it a surprise, therefore, that Tottenham are long-term admirers of the left winger? A club heralded for their youth development and the inherently excellent standard of coaching under Mauricio Pochettino, it superficially spells a match made in footballing heaven.

REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

Whilst Fulham owner Shahid Khan knows in Sessegnon he has an asset of significant value, the businessman in him recognises that the 18-year-old is not just an asset, but an appreciating one at that. Hence, his expected reluctance to do business.

“We don’t want Sessegnon leaving,” Khan told The Times.

Tottenham have been struck by a double-edged sword.

As thrilling as it may be for his admirers in North London to see him excel, Sessegnon’s delightful displays have seen Fulham promoted to the Premier League for the first time since 2014, allowing complications to manifest in any deal perhaps in place between the two parties.

“I don’t think he wants to go. He’s going to be at Fulham for the coming year, leading us into the Premier League,” Khan continued.

Had Aston Villa won on Saturday, this piece becomes moot. Fulham remain in the Championship and Tottenham can sign Sessegnon with marked ease as a Premier League club with all its inherent allures.

REUTERS/Tony O’Brien

Tottenham’s ideal, however, was not to be. Alas, Fulham are a Premier League club once more. But, where does all this leave the man that made it all possible?

What Spurs can offer is surely tempting.

Higher wages, far superior training facilities and Pochettino himself. The glitteringly glorious nights of European football under the lights of the new White Hart Lane, or whatever monstrosity of a company Daniel Levy decides to sell the naming rights to. A better quality of teammate in one big happy family. 

It’s theoretically such a seemless switch -within the same city, to boot- that Sessegnon wouldn’t even have to change his home kit colour. 

All the aforementioned, however, makes little difference when taken in isolation from the one matter of importance – playing time. Sessegnon needs games. At 18, the forward needs to be on the pitch, week-in, week-out, to maintain his upwards trajectory of development.

REUTERS/David Klein

Lack of playing time creates stagnancy. It fosters inconsistency. It allows a pervasive sense of doubt to cripple your confidence. You need only look at Marcus Rashford for an example of how easily erodible your self-belief, and subsequently your game, is.

The poisoned chalice

This is Sessegnon’s first full season in Fulham’s first team, making near double the amount of appearances than in last year’s Championship. It’s perhaps presumptuous to suggest that he’s even fully appreciative of manager Slavisa Jokanovic’s style of football. It’s completely wrong, moreover, to propose that Sessegnon has any knowledge of how to play in the Premier League or what it means.

Moving to Tottenham equates to adaptation. To change. To learning a new style of football. To understanding a new set of teammates and consequent club culture.

The last thing Sessegnon needs in his short career is change.

Unfairly, yet unfortunately deservedly, gifted the poisoned chalice of England’s new future ‘Golden Boy,’ perhaps what’s best is for Sessegnon to keep his head down and continue to work hard for Jokanovic’s Fulham.

REUTERS/Tony O’Brien

Made all the more pertinent by the unscrupulous character assassination of Raheem Sterling by The Sunthe unwarranted scrutiny of playing for a bigger club is a joy to contend with at a later date.

Destined for success

Allow him the extra year at Craven Cottage to develop free from the constraints of constant media inspection and, firstly, adapt to the Premier League before thrusting the subtle differences of Champions League football upon him. Afford him the peace players such as Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling aren’t. Shield him and he shall flourish.

Protect his happiness and he shall protect yours come Qatar 2022.

The 18-year-old is destined for success. It’s so close you can almost touch it. It’s palpable. It will happen, be it this summer, the next or whenever else.

Sessegnon isn’t just another star, the support role he’d have to adopt at Tottenham at the present. At Fulham, though, he’s the man.

For now, let him be the star. More simply, just let him be.

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Oli Stein

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Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has worked with RealSport since September 2016.

Currently assistant football editor and Tottenham correspondent.

Follow him on Twitter: @steinoliver_

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