To the delight of Tottenham fans, the Lilywhites have spent the summer bringing some of Europe’s hottest young footballing prodigies to White Hart Lane.
Funded by Gareth Bale’s Real Madrid mega deal, Daniel Levy and Franco Baldini secured the signings of Ajax starlet Christian Eriksen, the most promising Romanian of his generation, Vlad Chiriches, and Argentine wonder-kid Erik Lamela, all of whom are touted to become the biggest things since Wham, sliced bread and Zinedine Zidane respectively.
But it wasn’t long ago that the talk of the Tottenham town was centred around a different prodigy from the continent – 22-year-old German international Lewis Holtby. The midfielder joined Spurs in January for a nominal fee and was predicted to be an instant success, but nine months down the line and a summer of monumental change later, the chances of a Spurs supporter talking up Holtby’s ability at the start of the 2013/2014 campaign are incredibly slim.
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In fact, if you quizzed a Tottenham enthusiast on how the young German is getting on at his relatively new dwellings, the conversation would probably go a little like this;
“How’s that Lewis Holtby getting on?”
“Holtby, you know, that young playmaking midfielder tipped to become the biggest thing since the Spice girls.”
“Hmm…Young playmaking midfielder… do you mean Christian Eriksen?”
Whatever happened to Lewis Holtby? Once tipped to take the Premier League by storm, the Bundesliga protégé rarely featured in pre-season for the Lilywhites, and hasn’t been involved in any of their opening three domestic fixtures. Following the arrival of an illustrious young and talented cast at White Hart Lane this summer, it seems he’s become old news wrapped around yesterday’s chips.
It’s all the more surprising considering the urgency and haste Daniel Levy showed in getting the Spurs starlet to North London. After an incredibly successful eighteen months in the Schalke first team, there was a great furore over getting Holtby to the Premier League in January as his contract with the German outfit began to wind down.
Levy pipped his divisional rivals to the post by signing the attacking midfielder on a pre-contract agreement that would see him arrive in the summer. But sensing that the Lilywhites couldn’t wait another six months for a player of Holtby’s quality, the Tottenham chief offered Schalke £1.75million to let their star midfielder leave early. Granted, it’s a nominal fee, but Levy isn’t one to throw money away for the sheer thrill of it; something must have convinced him that the German was worth every penny, perhaps the promising record of ten goals in 55 league outings for Schalke.
Eleven Premier League appearances later however, with nothing to show for them except for a lot of hard graft in and around the final third, Holtby seems further away from the Spurs first team than he did when he was still in the German top flight, having made one token outing in a Europa League play-off against Dinamo Tbilisi so far this season.
The Lilywhites have been here before when it comes to wonder-kids that haven’t lived up to their billing. Wayne Routledge was considered the future of England’s flanks when he signed for Spurs in 2005, before making just five appearances in three seasons at White Hart Lane and going the next six years of his career without a Premier League goal.
John Bostock was purchased for £700k in 2008 on the back of just five promising first team outings for Crystal Palace, and ended up joining Royal Antwerp under the bosman ruling this summer having not made a single senior appearance for the North Londoners.
But you’d argue the situation was much different with Holtby. For one, he’s not yet another overhyped English youngster to generate a reputation for himself as the future of the national game without ever kicking a football.
And secondly, he’s been causing waves for some time; eight goals in 31 appearances for Alemannia Aachen in the German second tier as an 18 year-old in 2008 earned the midfielder his Schalke move, and he’s racked up 14 goals and 24 caps for the Germany U21s since 2009. Holtby’s even made three appearances for the German seniors, and back in his native land is discussed in the same breath as Julian Draxler, Andre Schurrle, and Ilkay Gundogan.
So what did happen to Lewis Holtby, who now can’t even get a place on the Tottenham bench? We’ll it seems he first became the victim of his own hype – absolutely no output from his 11 inaugural Premier League appearances hardly lived up to the youngster’s preceding reputation for netting aesthetic efforts from midfield. And now, he’s fallen foul of a change in trend at White Hart Lane, triggered by Gareth Bale’s record-breaking departure.
Once the fashionable protégé for Andre Villas-Boas to throw on in relatively important fixtures to show off Tottenham’s future potential, that right now goes to the far more expensive Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela, whom, unluckily for Holtby, happen to play in the exact same attacking midfield berth.
Managers aren’t meant to let such material issues affect their decision making, but the German international now has £40million’s worth of new, exciting, flavour-of-the-month talent to contend with, not that he seemed to be in the Portuguese’s plans before the attacking duo’s arrival towards the end of the summer transfer window.
In eight days time, Holtby turns 23, which is the kind of age when critics begin intensely analysing whether or not you’ll live up to your potential. For his time in England at least, there’s not a lot of evidence to go on, but there will be few Premier League pundits suggesting the German has a bright future ahead of him at White Hart Lane. At this point, he seems destined to slip into the background in North London.
Will Lewis Holtby be a success at Spurs?
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