Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino has broken the habit of a career by sending Leeds United academy product Jack Clarke back to Yorkshire on loan.
He has signed a contract until 2023 but will immediately return to the Championship club on loan for the duration of the 2019/20 campaign, as the Whites once again attempt to win promotion to the Premier League.
Yet this feels out of character for Pochettino.
Indeed, it must be noted that Marcelo Bielsa, a coach revered by Pochettino, manages Leeds; the pair have a storied connection. A fabled tale goes that before Bielsa signed Pochettino at Newell’s Old Boys when the Spurs boss was 13, he asked to see his legs while he was sleeping, to see if he was likely to be good enough to play for the club. He thought they were and signed him.
And yet, loans are not often utilised by Spurs. The likes of Oliver Skipp, Kyle Walker-Peters and Harry Winks could all have gone out on loan in recent seasons, as could Juan Foyth, with all four players having played through periods when they were deemed good enough to be around the first-team but not quite at the point of featuring regularly.
At most top clubs, that is when a loan is arranged, and the player will join either a mid-table Premier League club or a Championship side, as they look to gain minutes and experience – Derby’s decision to loan Liverpool’s Harry Wilson and Chelsea’s Mason Mount last season attests to that.
At Spurs, though, it’s more a case of loans being for those players who will eventually be discarded, when there isn’t actually a buyer to be found.
Look at the list of players who spent the 2018/19 season out on loan: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Samuel Shashoua, Marcus Edwards, Connor Ogilvie, Joshua Onomah, Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, Anthony Georgiou, Shayon Harrison, Kazaiah Sterling and Tom Glover.
Ogilvie has already been allowed to join Gillingham permanently, while Glover has been released. Carter-Vickers is 21 and has played four times for the club at centre-back; Shashoua is 20 and has never had a sniff of the first-team; Edwards is talented but his attitude has been questioned; Onomah has already been tipped to join Sheffield Wednesday permanently; N’Koudou does not have the required ability to play for the club; Georgiou, Harrison and Sterling are all 20 or over and have played a combined 18 minutes at the top level.
That Clarke is going out on loan, then, is a ceding of control from Pochettino.
He usually nurtures the young players who are coming through, slowly exposing them to first-team action before eventually being able to bed them in when they are ready.
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Perhaps he does not deem Clarke to be in the same category as the likes of Skipp or Walker-Peters yet; perhaps this deal was merely done to get a jump on the competition and ensure that a talented player is on the books at Spurs before he becomes a star in the Championship.
That, of course, is the hope for him next season, that he can thrive at Elland Road and return to Spurs ready to make a breakthrough.
Pochettino has broken his habit with this deal. He had better hope it pays off.