Jose Mourinho has been tipped for face-to-face talks with Harry Winks in a desperate bid to keep the Tottenham Hotspur outcast in north London.
While speaking with Football Insider, former Scotland boss Alex McLeish has backed Mourinho to sit down with Winks and discuss his Spurs future after the midfielder revealed he finds it difficult on the sidelines.
Winks claims his challenging situation will threaten his chances of making Gareth Southgate’s England squad for next summer’s postponed Euro 2020 tournament, having been restricted to just three Premier League starts and omitted from two 18-man squads this season.
The 24-year-old has so far remained a Three Lions regular despite falling down the pecking order, picking up his 10th-cap as a second-half substitute in Wednesday’s UEFA Nations League victory over Iceland.
Reports suggest Winks is likely to hand in a transfer request in a bid to leave Tottenham this winter, either on loan or permanently, unless he re-enters Mourinho’s plans following the £15million summer arrival of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton.
McLeish is unsure whether or not Winks has the ability to displace Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele in the starting line-up, but expects Mourinho to hold clear-the-air talks in search of a mutual solution.
“He’s young, he’ll be of the mind that: ‘I need to play every week at my age, these are the most important years of my life and career,’ and maybe that’s why he’s getting itchy feet and why there are murmurs coming out that perhaps a move is on the cards,” he said.
“I like Harry Winks, I don’t think he’ll stick getting a club and he could fit into somebody else’s system but at the moment he’s surplus to Jose’s first-choice, I’m not saying he’s surplus to Jose altogether.
“Maybe Jose will have a pep talk with him and keep his spirits up and say: ‘Don’t play the short ball son, play the long ball,’ because he’s been a really good player for Spurs in their success over the last few years.”
It remains to be seen if Mourinho can – or will even attempt to – keep Winks at Tottenham when the transfer window opens in January, as the midfielder’s “itchy feet” could well be a scratch the Portuguese tactician cannot resolve without offering him regular game time.
But with a packaged schedule thanks to competing in the Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Europa League, Mourinho will need to step in and convince Winks, once described as “amazing” by ex-boss Mauricio Pochettino, that he will be afforded enough chances to impress Southgate should he stay at Spurs this winter.
Mourinho can ill-afford to lose a player who is capable of starting week in, week out in north London should anything befall Hojbjerg, Moussa Sissoko or Ndombele, with Winks enjoying the next-most minutes in a central midfield role (257) to the Danish (720) and French (483, 422) enforcers.
As McLeish adds, Winks is also a player with eye-catching potential, but must work on one trait to his game that could be why Mourinho feels he must look elsewhere.
“Harry catches the eye as a busy player, he’s played for England, he’s very, very busy,” the former Rangers boss said. “He’s got a bad habit of keeping the ball, that’s an extremely bad habit to have, a guy who keeps possession!”
Over his four Premier League appearances this term, Winks has yet registered a goal or assist having averaged 0.0 shots and 0.3 key balls a game, along with 46.0 accurate passes (88%), 2.5 duels won (2.0 ground, 0.5 aerial) but zero successful dribbles, per SofaScore.