Last night’s Champions League clash at the Bernabeu represented the biggest and most important evening to date of Harry Winks’ short senior career, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the guile and composure the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder provided in the engine room.
It perhaps wasn’t his most dominant performance in a Lilywhites jersey, but the statistics highlight how instrumental Winks was to his side taking a point on the road against the first ever back-to-back winners in Champions League history, completing the most passes of any Spurs player despite the pressure imposed on him by Real Madrid’s midfield diamond.
That gave Spurs the time to push up defensively and created space for the attacking players to get forward, but what the statistics don’t show is how Winks impacted the scoreline as well; he provided the assist to the assist, playing in Serge Aurier and darting forward to take away the defender as the Ivorian looped in a cross for Harry Kane to touch onto Raphael Varane – the unfortunate proprietor of an own goal.
Last night’s performance surely won’t have escaped the attention of Gareth Southgate either, after handing the midfielder his England debut earlier this month. What stands out most about Winks’ game, especially compared to England’s other options in the engine room, is his willingness to receive the ball even when he’s under pressure, followed by the composure to productively move it on.
In the current climate, that makes the 5 foot 10 youngster an exceptionally rare breed amongst the Three Lions fold. And with the likes of Jack Wilshere and Jonjo Shelvey out of the picture for now, Winks seems a shoo-in for the ball-retaining role in England’s midfield at the World Cup provided he continues to pick up game-time.