It's not a new story, it was posted on Thursday.Oh Lordy The Athletic has more negative info on NDombele vs Jose and players stating he isn't training at 100%.
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From public criticism to a lockdown-busting training session in the park, the seemingly tempestuous relationship between Jose Mourinho and Tanguy Ndombele has surely been one of the most fascinating sub-plots of this elongated Premier League season.
The demanding manager and the seemingly laid-back creative genius always felt like being an uneasy marriage, and so it has proved. The latest instalment in their ongoing saga saw reports circulating on Tuesday night of a training ground bust-up the previous day. Mourinho dismissed the claims in his press conference following the 2-0 win over West Ham while elsewhere, reports have varied. Some who are close to the situation say there was a conversation in which Ndombele made clear that he felt fit to play but not the heated argument that has been described in some quarters.
Either way, what was undeniable was that for the second game running, Tottenham’s ludicrously talented and record £55 million signing watched on from the bench, despite Mourinho having five substitutions available.
Ndombele has completed 90 minutes just once for Mourinho and in his last appearance against Burnley on March 7, was hauled off at half-time and told publicly that “he has to give us more than he is giving us”. Prior to that, Mourinho twice questioned Ndombele’s fitness in public, describing him in January as “always injured”.
Since then, the Premier League was halted, the pair broke lockdown rules to train together on Hadley Common and prior to the restart, Mourinho said he was pleased with how Ndombele was training. And yet, he still hasn’t played a minute since that Burnley game.
So, what’s going on? The reality is that the relationship between the two is strained — as one well-placed observer put it: the coach doesn’t understand the player and the player doesn’t understand the coach. Mourinho’s aim has always been to try and help Ndombele but as yet, the kind of reaction he was after has not been forthcoming.
Some dressing-room sources, including a few who were previously sympathetic to Ndombele, believe this is down to a distinct lack of effort on the Frenchman’s part in training. Others at the club felt that Mourinho’s public criticism of the midfielder earlier in the season were unfair. He remains a divisive issue.
Ndombele himself is not understood to have protested about those injury criticisms or his lack of playing time. A naturally quiet character, he has been disappointed not to be playing but it is not in his nature to seek confrontation.
Thankfully, he at least finally feels free of the niggles that afflicted him earlier on in the season but, having not played any football for almost four months, is not thought to be ready to play a full 90 minutes. As it stands, Giovani Lo Celso, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks are all ahead of him in the pecking order to play central midfield, while Dele Alli’s return from suspension blocks off his route to starting further forward.
Clearly, it’s a situation that cannot go on for too much longer — the record signing warming the bench. Should Ndombele continue not to play, then he will look to leave at the end of the season.
Spurs’ current position is that they do not want to sell the player but in the current climate, it’s impossible to imagine them paying wages of £200,000 a week for a player who is not getting minutes. As for a possible destinations, Paris Saint-Germain have made enquiries about the player, while Barcelona are understood to have contacted Spurs about a possible move. Barca’s financial troubles mean they couldn’t afford anything like the fee Spurs paid last summer but a loan with a fee and an option or obligation to buy has been mooted — if they can shift other central midfielders in their squad.
For the moment, though, despite a growing feeling that Ndombele will leave in the summer, any move remains hypothetical. His focus remains on forcing his way into the Spurs team, rather than out of the club. He’s very unlikely to start next week against Sheffield United but the following week, Spurs play three games in seven days and he will surely get his chance in one of them. Then, it’ll be up to Ndombele to show Mourinho that he is capable of the kind of application the head coach demands, and should Ndombele start getting minutes, then the situation could quickly change. Whether Ndombele’s more instinctive, mercurial style will ever be exactly what Mourinho wants from a central midfielder is open to question.
As for Ndombele himself, he is understood to feel settled in London and is enjoying living in the city, and so has no immediate desire to leave. He also loves the stadium and is said to admire the club’s owner Daniel Levy. He is not yet fluent in English but gets on well with his team-mates and is especially close with Dele Alli and Moussa Sissoko, who has taken him under his wing.
Generally, though, he is not someone who enjoys long conversations and has never been someone to especially relish talking to the media. This reticence, compared with Mourinho’s comfort in the spotlight, may also explain why the dynamic has appeared as though the manager has been swinging punches, with Ndombele sitting back and taking the punishment.
It’s worth remembering though that Mauricio Pochettino could be similarly forthright about Ndombele while he was still in charge earlier on in the season. Ahead of the campaign starting, Pochettino said his new signing was not yet ready for the Premier League, before saying in October that Ndombele could take two years to get used to his methods.
And eight months on, here we are — with a new manager but Ndombele seemingly no closer to finding his feet at Spurs. The club are desperate for the move to be a success to justify its vast expense but at the moment, there is no place for him in the team.
Given Lo Celso’s increasingly impressive form and the Frenchman’s own inconsistency, it makes sense that Ndombele is not playing. But then you think about the shimmies, the feints, the last-minute rabona crosses and long to see him on the pitch.
It’s a frustration shared by almost everyone associated with the club — including Pascal Chimbonda, a former Tottenham and France player, who was also accused of being lazy. “When you see him play, you see he has quality,” Chimbonda tells The Athletic. “But in your head, you think he doesn’t do enough on the pitch — that’s why people think he’s lazy.
“People don’t like guys who are too laid-back and when you play for Mourinho, if you don’t give everything, he will take you out of the team. He needs to step up and prove everyone wrong, and that he’s worth the money.
“If I spoke to him, I would tell him, ‘It’s time to step up. Prove you’re the player we signed — the same as when you were at Lyon, and do the same thing’ because we don’t yet see where all his talent is. Where is it hiding? Prove that we were right to sign you and then people will shut their mouth.”
(Photo: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)