Tottenham Hotspur are on the verge of signing Jack Clarke from Leeds United, with Sky Sports reporting that the teenager has passed a medical ahead of an £8.5m switch.
Clarke made his first-team breakthrough under Marcelo Bielsa in 2018/19, making a total of 25 appearances, scoring two goals and registering two assists.
The London Evening Standard report that he will be given the chance to earn a first-team berth under Mauricio Pochettino next season instead of being sent out on loan, with Spurs looking to strengthen a squad that reached the Champions League final and finished in the Premier League top-four.
But what exactly are the experts saying about the youngster, and is he likely to make a significant impact at Spurs?
A die-hard Leeds fan, Football League World editorial assistant Alfie Burns gives Football FanCast the lowdown on Clarke…
“Clarke broke onto the scene late in 2018 for Leeds, with the Elland Road academy graduate bringing a fearless edge to the Whites’ attacking play heading towards the Christmas period.
“The 18-year-old’s ability to beat a man and counterattack gave Leeds’ attack a different dimension, and his impact over the months of December and January was particularly impressive, with goals and assists coming regularly in big games like Aston Villa away and Derby County at home.
“However, his form dipped following illness and a collapse at Middlesbrough, with Clarke never rediscovering the spark that made him such a hit at the turn of the year. In my eyes, that’s why Tottenham aren’t paying big bucks for the teenager and Leeds are letting him go for a rather modest fee.
“I’ve got my doubts about the immediate impact Clarke can have in a Tottenham shirt, but you’ve got to look at what Mauricio Pochettino has done in the past with players, with Dele Alli the prime example of an EFL talent flourishing under his management.
“For that reason I’m expecting Clarke to be a hit in North London, even if that takes 12-18 months. Pochettino will have to restore his confidence following his illness and drop in form, but in many ways that will make the move even more intriguing to watch.”
There’s relatively high praise here from a Football League specialist who watches Clarke week in, week out.
It will be interesting to see whether the teen can overcome his dip but it may actually endear him all the more to Pochettino; it’s rare for youngsters to take such a hit so early in their career, so if he can bounce back, he may see his stock rise even further.
Speaking to Football Insider amid reports that Leeds were set to demand £20m for Clarke…
“Leeds have overpriced the young man from what I hear,” he told Football Insider. “They want £20million for him and he’s not worth that. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
“£12million is a lot of money, but £20million is overpricing a player. You have to be sensible with a player’s valuation. He still has a long way to go.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’d love him to stay at Leeds and progress as a player, but we will see if that happens.”
It now appears that a deal has been struck at around £8.5m but, even so, Whelan was probably right.
But then, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t; Leeds don’t want to lose a promising youngster on the cheap, nor do they want to completely scare away bidders when the money could feasibly be reinvested and actually help to improve the squad.
Clarke could well be worth the money in the coming months, particularly if he hits the ground running in the early stages of his Spurs career.
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Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post after Clarke inspired a second-half comeback against Aston Villa, with Leeds winning 3-2 in dramatic circumstances after falling 2-0 behind.
“When I started to look at his skills I didn’t imagine that he could make the difference as he’s making the difference now. As with every young player, I think he can improve a lot. He has to confirm his level and show what he is capable of.
“We know that a feature of any big player is to maintain the same level of performance. He’s a young player and we have to manage his playing time. That’s my opinion. If we build an image which exaggerates his capabilities, instead of helping him we will be hurting him.”
Bielsa has trodden carefully around Clarke thus far and he started just four games in the Championship.
His view on him, though, is an interesting one; perhaps Clarke is a player who can merely turn it on when he’s on the pitch, instead of putting it in during training every week.
That Bielsa was surprised at his success suggests the hypothesis might be correct, and it will be intriguing to see if he can also shock Mauricio Pochettino with the scale of his impact.