There was a time when Nabil Bentaleb looked like a player that Spurs were going to rely on for years to come. But the emergence of young central midfield talents like Eric Dier, in the defensive role, and Dele Alli in an attacking one, saw Bentaleb frozen out of the first-team.
And then he moved to Schalke 04 on loan, and that’s when Spurs should really have started to take notice again. Instead, they agreed to a permanent move at the end of his loan spell in Germany. And you can see why the German side wanted to sign him up all for themselves.
This season, Bentaleb has been something of a bright spark for Schalke in a season where they have struggled to gain consistency. They currently sit only four points above the relegation play-off zone in the Bundesliga, but Bentaleb has pitched in from midfield, playing slightly beyond just the defensive role we saw him employed in during his time at Spurs, and bagging five goals and four assists already this season.
The Algeria international is a tidy player, with a decent pass completion rate and an average of about 45 passes-per-game this season in Germany’s top flight. But it’s his contribution to both the attack and the defence that looks like he’s blossoming into more of an all-round midfielder than he was in north London.
As Eric Dier’s performances have been up and down this season, perhaps Pochettino will be wishing that he remained at the club to help out for the remainder of the season.