At the time, Tottenham Hotspur’s decision to sign Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg for £15m from Southampton and ship Kyle Walker-Peters in the other direction was understandably lauded as a masterstroke.
The N17 youth product had struggled to make much of an impact after breaking into the first team setup, with neither Mauricio Pochettino nor Jose Mourinho called upon him regularly.
The Hojbjerg side of the deal has paid off, that’s for sure. He has arguably been Mourinho’s player of the season but, in selling Walker-Peters, Spurs may have made a premature and costly blunder.
But for injuries, the 23-year-old would probably be their signing of the year, too. Walker-Peters’ 6.97 average rating is only bettered by two players at St Mary’s Stadium – Spurs-linked defender Jannik Vestergaard (7.09) and England international James Ward-Prowse (7.10), as per WhoScored.
Saints manager Ralph Hassenhuttl has recently acknowledged just how influential the 23-year-old is to their fortunes, telling the Daily Echo: “We miss him when he is not playing. He was an important player in our best time of the season. And yes, we hope when he is coming back that he can lift our game.”
That follows on from his previous praise in which he dubbed the young talent a “role model” who “makes few mistakes.”
Not only has he contributed defensively with his tough-tackling and game-reading ability, but he has also proven to be a threat in the final third – as per WhoScored, Walker-Peters (2.8) is only second to defensive brute Oriol Romeu (3.4) for tackles per game, and similarly, he ranks second (1.7) behind Stuart Armstrong (1.9) for dribbles per match.
There were already signs of talent in north London – Pochettino once said the defender was a player with “amazing quality”.
The right-back spot has been a long-standing issue ever since Walker-Peters’ namesake departed for Manchester City in 2017. Kieran Trippier shortly followed him out the exit door, and Spurs were left with Serge Aurier, who has often been a “liability” for the club.
In the summer, Wolves star Matt Doherty joined the club for £15m but that has been an instant disaster. Mourinho was caught berating him against Liverpool, just a few weeks after picking up a needless red card against Leeds, and now it is thought his future is in jeopardy.
According to ESPN reporter James Olley, the Spurs boss is considering putting the 29-year-old flop up for sale should his form not improve before the end of the season.
When Aurier has usurped his own replacement, you know something’s not right.
Competing in the very same division as the exiled former Spurs graduate, it’s easy to make a direct comparison, and this is where Levy’s mistake starts to surface.
Doherty has struggled defensively, averaging 1.3 tackles and 1.3 fouls per game, and he’s not been able to reproduce his attacking returns, managing a measly 0.3 dribbles per game, via WhoScored.
Therefore, when you consider the contrasting form of both players, the Spurs decision-makers have certainly committed a disastrous mistake here. If they didn’t believe in Walker-Peters, then perhaps a season-long loan in the big time would’ve been sufficient.
Instead, they’ll pay the price for letting the defensive gem leave. Hide your eyes, Levy, he’s now worth €30m (£26m) as per CIES Football Observatory.
AND in other news, Bye-bye Lamela: Spurs eyeing “creative” Ligue 1 sensation…