Glenn Hoddle brought Jonathan Blondel to Tottenham on August 7th 2002 from Belgian side Royal Excelsior Mouscron. The signing was met with excitement by Tottenham fans, who were led to believe that despite a trial at Manchester United, Spurs had convinced Jonathan to join the Lilywhites.
The fee was believed to be somewhere in the region of £800k, and with Blondel’s reputation, supporters hoped that the 18 year old would offer competition for places in the centre of midfield, where Tottenham were perceived as weak. Steffen Freund was an aging force, and his presence in the side was on the wane, whilst Gustavo Poyet and Tim Sherwood were also on the wrong side of 30. Blondel was capped at under-21 level for the Belgium national side, and was referred to as one of the most talented players in the squad.
However, despite optimism among fans that Spurs had uncovered a gem, the Belgian made just two substitute appearances during his two season stay at the club. In fairness to Blondel, even if he was a good young player, Tottenham were in decline under Hoddle. Further, for Club Bruges, Jonathan plays on the left of midfield, where as Hoddle had designs on the boy playing in the centre. Perhaps owing to Hoddle’s preference for a 3-5-2 formation, Jonathan was always going to struggle to fit into the Hoddle system.
Blondel was viewed by the few that saw him as too light-weight for the Premier League, with his physique and age conspiring against him. However, Tottenham spent nearly £1m on an 18 year old that had made just 18 appearances for his club in Belgium, and so perhaps Tottenham fans harboured unrealistic hopes for the diminutive young midfielder. It was a move that foreshadowed Frank Arnesen’s ‘scatter gun’ approach to signing young players (think Rodrigo Defendi, Callum Davenport, Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone etc), and ultimately did not pay off.
Blondel left Tottenham in January 2004, barely 18 months after joining, and signed up for Club Bruges, where he has to date played over 150 matches. Blondel and Tottenham’s paths crossed one more time however, in a UEFA Cup match on 2nd November 2006. Tottenham beat Club Bruges 3-1, with Blondel finally playing a full 90 minutes at White Hart Lane. To date, Blondel has 3 full caps for the Belgium national team.
Perhaps Blondel should serve as a future warning to supporters. For example, in June 2008, Tottenham apparently ‘beat’ Manchester United to the signing of 16 year old striker Paul-Jose Mpoku. Now where have I heard that before…
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