A fantastical Argentine double swoop that could also have seen Paulo Dybala arrive in North London never materialised but Tottenham Hotspur supporters shouldn’t be too despondent after closing a deal for Giovani Lo Celso on transfer deadline day.
The elegant playmaker put pen to paper on a season-long loan deal from Real Betis for a fee of £14.7 million and should Spurs secure Champions League football, the club will have an obligation to pay a further £55 million to sign Lo Celso on a permanent deal.
It represents tremendous value for the Premier League club, a neat turnaround for Real Betis, who only activated their option to sign Lo Celso from Paris Saint-Germain for around £23 million in April, and a terrific next step for the 23-year-old in his development.
Any doubts that an uninspiring spell in Paris may have conjured were dispelled last season as Lo Celso shone in a Betis side that finished tenth in La Liga and reached the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.
Nine goals and four assists in the league saw Lo Celso establish himself as one of the best attacking midfielders in Spain, making PSG’s treatment look more than a tad foolish and rapidly hinting that the Argentina international may already have outgrown Betis.
With no shortage of suitors, Tottenham had been linked with Lo Celso for weeks before eventually making the breakthrough in negotiations on the penultimate day of the Premier League transfer window. The sticking point that had been PSG’s sell-on clause potentially bypassed in part by Spurs paying such an inflated loan fee.
As Spurs gear up for a potential title challenge, or at least aim to close the gap on Liverpool and Manchester City, in their stunning new stadium, Lo Celso provides an exciting new attacking option to Mauricio Pochettino.
Emerging from Rosario Central’s academy to debut in 2015 as a fleet-footed, 19-year-old enganche, the same deft touches and incisive passing that lit up the Gigante de Arroyito have served Lo Celso well in a central attacking midfield role for Betis.
With Christian Eriksen’s future at Spurs still uncertain, Lo Celso may well fill the Dane’s boots in that advanced playmaker position behind Harry Kane but the Argentine has shown a versatility that could prove hugely beneficial to Pochettino. Able to drift into wide positions, push further forward in support of the striker or even in a deep-lying, more defensively responsible role.
The lack of playing time and PSG’s insistence on playing Lo Celso in such a role didn’t help the youngster’s adaptation to European football but did demonstrate an ability to press and win possession that Pochettino, as a disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, will find admirable.
Regardless, it will be in the opposition half that Tottenham will look to Lo Celso for inspiration and his close control, wonderful first touch, eye of a needle passing and sweet left foot should have the desired impact.
Under the tutelage of Pochettino it can only be positive for Lo Celso, Spurs and Argentina.