Tottenham Hotspur parted company with Kieran Trippier in the summer, but the North Londoners’ decision not to sign a replacement for the England right-back has been one to come back and haunt them ever since the season began.
Mauricio Pochettino had entered the campaign with Juan Foyth emerging as his preferred option on the right (Football.London), but has been forced to deploy Davinson Sanchez and Moussa Sissoko out of position to cover for the Argentine and Kyle Walker-Peters’ absences.
The Spurs chief has also been unable to rely on Serge Aurier to consistently deliver at his best, and has now transfer listed the Ivory Coast defender (The Times) as part of an attempted mid-season rejuvenation of his squad.
Even falling on Foyth, who is yet to feature this term after an ankle injury (TransferMarkt), would not be a guaranteed method to secure more favourable results than a 7-2 humiliating defeat at home to Bayern Munich and a 3-0 humbling loss away to Brighton & Hove Albion days after, as the 21-year-old is a natural centre-half.
Instead, Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy would have been far better served putting to use the £21.7million (Sky Sports) banked through Trippier’s move to Atletico Madrid by signing a replacement, and will now be regretting the huge mistake made by not pursuing SSC Napoli’s Elseid Hysaj after being linked with the Albania captain (Sky Sports).
It was said Tottenham begun to explore the potential of striking a deal for the right-back as Deadline Day rapidly approached in August, and that they looked at Hysaj as an option to come in after Foyth was ruled out for ‘many weeks’ and grew uncertain over the worthiness of signing Marseille’s 29-year-old Hiroki Sakai.
Hysaj was firmly open to the idea of moving on from Napoli in the summer, having told Digitalb (via Goal): I’m absolutely ready for a new challenge because I need change. For me, my time at Napoli is over, and I hope to find a team that will give me what I need.”
His agent, Mario Giuffredi, soon supported Hysaj’s comments while speaking with TV programme In Casa Napoli (via Goal): “He will leave, there are teams that are interested, however, the club will have to lower their asking price.
“They have a shrewd sporting director in [Cristiano] Giuntoli, and he knows that Hysaj wants to leave, so they know they will have to find a solution to the situation.”
At the time, it was thought Giuntoli was holding out for £35m after Hysaj had been linked with Manchester United, Chelsea and Juventus, but when no side came forward at that price, La Repubblica and La Gazzetta dello Sport (via Football-Italia) reported Atleti were set to sign the 25-year-old for €20m (£17.9m).
Atletico Madrid would instead successfully pursue Trippier, and Levy had to act on Tottenham’s interest in Hysaj to replace the Englishman, with €20m (£17.9m) also marking a marginal profit on the £21.7m secured.
Ultimately Levy did not and Pochettino has been worse off for it, as the Argentine is yet to see any of his available options convince him that they should be his number one for the position.
Hysaj would have arrived with a firm case to support his argument had Levy made a successful bid, as the Albanian averaged 1.7 successful tackles from 2.7 attempts per ninety minutes in the Serie A last season, along with 1.0 interceptions, 1.9 clearances, 0.8 successful dribbles from 1.4 and 0.6 key balls from 66.6 passes, per data collected by WhoScored.
The 50-cap international, who can also play as a left-back, has not been able to replicate his form for Napoli so far this season, though, as he has been resigned to just 54 minutes in the Italian top-flight after struggling for fitness (TransferMarkt) and is now set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Napoli confirmed on Sunday evening that Hysaj had suffered a fractured sternum during their clash with Torino earlier that day, when the defender fell on his neck after challenging Cristian Ansaldi for possession in the air.