Tanguy Ndombele has often cut a frustrated figure at Tottenham Hotspur as he’s struggled for fitness and consistency ever since that club-record move from Lyon in 2019.
Indeed, the Frenchman, who cost £55m, has been a polarising sensation in north London. On some days, he’s a different level to the rest, displaying the sort of technically-gifted ability that very few possess, on others, he looks lacklustre and disinterested.
The latter is the sort of attitude that would surely see him out the door under a ruthless authoritarian such as Antonio Conte. However, he and those around the club have reason to be positive because Ndombele could well play a monumental role in the future.
He may have been snubbed as an unused substitute at the weekend, meaning he has only started five of their 12 league games this term, but in a few months, his time could come.
You only have to look at the Italian’s use of Cesc Fabregas at Chelsea to see plenty of similarities. Arguably, Ndombele is in a better position right now, being just 24, some five years younger than the Spaniard at that time.
In the Blues’ title-winning campaign in 2016/17, the former Arsenal man registered 12 assists from 29 appearances and barely featured before Christmas, largely due to injuries. He had not completed a full 90 minutes by December.
By the New Year, Fabregas struck up a phenomenal partnership alongside N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic.
His past comments on the 52-year-old may provide some insight into exactly what Ndombele needs to do, and quite frankly, Spurs need a player like him to provide creativity just like the AS Monaco star once did.
“At the beginning, it was difficult for me, don’t get me wrong. A lot of running, a lot of intensity. Big sessions, double sessions, gym sessions,” he revealed (via football.london).
“I had coaches like Pep [Guardiola] who had a lot of positioning game but we had freedom inside of this. With Conte, the freedom was non-existent, he was telling me where I have to pass the ball.
“I’m 29 years old in that moment, I’ve already played for 13 years, I played in every final, I won a lot of things and this guy is telling me where I need to pass the ball.”
It is something that Conte has even already alluded to, since arriving in N17, telling reporters that the enigmatic midfielder needs “to understand that there is a team and he has to play into the team” and that he “has to work much more than the others” because of his talent.
Once dubbed “unplayable” and a “world-beater” by Joe Hart, Ndombele may need to bide his time heading into 2022 but if he does what’s asked of him, then he could well emerge as a key and influential player for Spurs for the remainder of the season.
Only time will tell if the £40.5m-rated dynamo can replicate such a feat. If so, then Conte may repeat one of his biggest masterclasses in management.