Tottenham Hotspur enjoyed a largely impressive summer window with eight major deals confirmed by the north London outfit, although there is still perhaps a sense of what might have been with the club unable to secure one key target – AS Roma’s Nicolo Zaniolo.
Reports early last month suggested that Spurs had seen a loan approach rejected by the Serie A outfit for the playmaker, with Jose Mourinho’s side having been holding out for a fee of around €50m (£42m) for the 22-year-old.
As it proved, sporting director Fabio Paratici was unable to work his magic late in the day to get the deal done, with compatriot Antonio Conte seemingly frustrated by the lack of further incomings before the end of the window.
While not explicitly referencing Zaniolo, the former Chelsea boss insisted that his side are still someway off their Premier League arrivals despite a hectic summer of recruitment, with more signings needed to help close the gap.
One notable area of concern remains in midfield, with the Lilywhites seemingly having been left without a true creative talent in the centre of the park, hence the desire for a new acquisition.
While reports had suggested that the serial-winning coach would have looked to use the Roma gem in a wing-back role if signed, the nine-cap menace would have also helped to fill that playmaking void in the centre of the park, having thrived in that role in Italy of late.
Despite having been ravaged by injury in recent years, the dynamic, 6-foot-3 starlet enjoyed a particularly impressive 2021/22 campaign, scoring eight goals and providing nine assists for the Europa Conference League winners.
Dubbed “decisive” by former boss Claudio Ranieri, the youngster could well have provided Conte with a different alternative this season, with the 53-year-old having utilised a 3-5-2 formation – with an attacking midfielder – during his triumphant spell at Inter Milan.
Deploying that system may have potentially been on the agenda for the one-time Juventus coach this season, with reports earlier in the window suggesting that the club were keen on signing Christian Eriksen on a free transfer – a player who thrived in a midfield three for Conte at the San Siro.
An impressive link between midfield and attack, Zaniolo notably ranks in the top 16% for dribbles completed among those in his position across Europe’s top five leagues, showcasing his devastating ability to drive forward from deep and initiate attacks.
For all the quality of Yves Bissouma, Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Hojgberg – as well as young Oliver Skipp – the current squad is currently devoid of that true creative spark beyond the ever-impressive Harry Kane.
The over-reliance on the Englishman and his fellow forwards to deliver the goods could well become a problem as the season progresses, with failing to add Zaniolo this summer potentially set to cost the club big time.