Perhaps it speaks volumes about Tottenham Hotspur’s summer transfer window activity that the £13million investment in goalkeeper Hugo Lloris last August, managed to pass with little in the way of frenzied excitement.
Of course, supporters were naturally anticipating the arrival of the highly rated French international goalkeeper, but amongst the departure of fan-favourite Rafael van der Vaart and the £22million protracted transfer of one Joao Moutinho, Lloris’ arrival in N17 seemed to be lost within the reshuffle.
Fast-forward five months, and in many ways, the low profile that Hugo Lloris swooped into White Hart Lane under, is still very much in tow. And for a goalkeeper of his class, that may well be the biggest compliment we can pay the former Lyon man. Because if he carries on performing like he has done this term, he could prove to be one of the most astute signings in the club’s recent history.
The lack of a sizeable fanfare around Lloris’ arrival at the club was perhaps understandable given the hectic nature of Spurs’ end of window dealings during the summer. And in hindsight, looking at the issues everyone from Heurelho Gomes to David de Gea have endured – albeit in varying circumstances – having been shoved straight into the spotlight following a high profile move, his slow but gradual integration into this team was something approaching a blessing.
Yet given the calibre of his goalkeeping talents, there seemed a strange absence of genuine excitement and a buzz of eagerness around Lloris’ arrival. After all, for all the signings that did or did not happen for Tottenham during the last week of the window, the £13million shelled out for Lloris was only a few million shy of their all-time highest transfer fee. Was there simply too much going on at the time for fans to really acknowledge the magnitude of the goalkeeper they’d just signed? Maybe so, although there was also an element of the unknown, too.
Supporters knew that the veteran Brad Friedel’s time at the club couldn’t go on forever, but following his extraordinary displays in the 1-1 home draws against West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City at the start of the season, the American had won an awful lot of admirers amongst the home support. A deep respect had been forged with Friedel out of the side’s early-season adversity and perhaps with so much change around the club, the sight of his experience between the sticks felt like a reassuring constant.
All of which went down unsurprisingly poorly on the other side of the channel, of course. To say that the French media were surprised at Lloris’ decision to move to a club not plying their trade in the Champions League would have been putting it mildly and with national coach Didier Deschamps seemingly doing all he could to speed up the process of transition, the onus was on Villas-Boas to pick his man. With the pressure on, Hugo Lloris has not disappointed.
What’s been staggering about Lloris’ adaptation into this Tottenham side, has been the abject need for anything approaching a period of acclimatisation. The fact we can sit here half-way through his debut season and talk about him looking like part of the furniture in Andre Villas-Boas’ side, is as remarkable as any of the string of world-class saves he’s made for the team this year.
Furthermore, for all the talk of the need for a ‘sweeper-keeper’ at the Lane and a modern-day goalkeeper to fit in with Villas-Boas’ defensive ideals, it’s been Lloris’ ability to consistently get the basics right, that’s been arguably his most domineering feature.
The speed in which he seems to fly off his line to mop up any loose ends in the Spurs defence has been an outstanding addition to this team, but more than anything, it’s been the abject lack of mistakes in Lloris’ game, that’s really caught the eye.
For all the shot-stopping capabilities of the likes of David de Gea, Wojciech Szczesny and Pepe Reina, none of the aforementioned trio have possessed anything approaching the all-round game Lloris has brought to the table this season. His highlight reel of stunning saves isn’t blotted by weak punches or suspect parrying straight towards an opponent. This season has perhaps shown more than ever how underrated a commodity consistency is between the sticks. And few have come close to rivalling Lloris in that department.
To put his ability into perspective, it’s very difficult indeed to think of how Spurs could find an upgrade on Hugo Lloris. It’s easy to get carried away when enjoying the performances of a goalkeeper or any other player at the top of their game, but should Andre Villas-Boas be able to pick any keeper in Europe to be his number one, could he really find one to supplant Lloris? Apart from the duo of Manuel Neuer and the effervescent Gianluigi Buffon, there aren’t an awful lot of candidates you could throw forward at this present moment in time.
Given the relatively paltry amounts of money that Tottenham parted with to purchase the likes of Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale in recent times, Hugo Lloris might not be able to take the title of club’s biggest bargain. But for the club to attain such a vital pillar to their side – at only 26 years of age – for such a relatively small amount of money, he could just prove to be one of the most important signings of the decade.