How a meeting with Daniel Levy got Tanguy Ndombele's Tottenham career back on track

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Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele celebrates after scoring the 1-1 equalizer during the English Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur - Shutterstock
Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele celebrates after scoring the 1-1 equalizer during the English Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur - Shutterstock

Tanguy Ndombele called it a normal meeting between player and chairman but Tottenham Hotspur’s record signing also says his summit with Daniel Levy in his first season went some way to keep him at the club.

In his office at Spurs’ training ground, Levy told his £54 million purchase that he had to fight to succeed, citing his own experiences as a 16-year-old when his headteacher wanted him kicked out of school. “The next day I said to myself, ‘I am not going to be beaten’,” Levy explained.

The speech, captured by the Amazon documentary makers, resonated with Ndombele, who had lived in France his entire life and had struggled to settle in England.

“If a chairman is seeing something that he is not happy with it’s normal that he wants to speak to the player about that,” Ndombele says. “It was a good meeting, I listened to what he had to say and he listened to me too. Perhaps if I’m still at Tottenham today it’s thanks to that meeting.”

Last weekend’s performance against Newcastle United was a glimpse of Ndombele at his best, liberated by his role as a No 10 behind Harry Kane.

Under Jose Mourinho he did not always play, and when he was on the pitch his best position was debated.

Levy could have cut his losses with Ndombele and recouped some of his outlay, but never gave up on his signing, just as he had persevered with his education. At the start of last season, Juventus made an offer which included Aaron Ramsey returning to the Premier League, but it was rejected.

Tanguy Ndombele of Tottenham Hotspur scores their side's first goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham - Getty Images
Tanguy Ndombele of Tottenham Hotspur scores their side's first goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham - Getty Images

The moment when it looked like he had little future at Spurs was when Mourinho took him off at half-time in the game at Burnley, accusing his player of not running. “We didn’t have a midfield in the first half,” he explained.

“I am quite happy for people to tell the truth like that about me,” said Ndombele. “That type of management, I’m fine with. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It is true that it was hard at the start with Mourinho but then, over time, we got on much better and the relationship worked much better.

“With any manager, if I don’t like how I’m treated, I’ll say so. At the end of the day each manager is going to have their own style.

“Jose Mourinho is someone who has a hard style of management, but he’s always about the club. But Nuno [Espirito Santo] is a really nice guy but he’s a bit quieter and keeps himself to himself. They’re two very different people.”

This summer Ndombele’s future also looked uncertain as Mourinho was eventually replaced. His biggest friends in the dressing room, Moussa Sissoko and Serge Aurier, departed and it looked as if the French influence at the club was being broken up.

“What went through the summer is something that is for me,” Ndombele says.

“Right now I’m focused on what is ahead of me and focused on playing for this club and fighting hard. I feel really ready with my football and that is all that I’m concentrating on and I’m now looking ahead.”

Nuno says Ndombele is a different player to last season, although the Frenchman himself says little has changed. He does, however, agree with his captain, Hugo Lloris, that he is benefiting from the rhythm of a run of games.

Tottenham Hotspur's Tanguy Ndombele walks off the pitch after being substituted as manager Nuno Espirito Santo - Reuters
Tottenham Hotspur's Tanguy Ndombele walks off the pitch after being substituted as manager Nuno Espirito Santo - Reuters

“I think that Hugo’s right. At the end of the day you need to play matches and get into the rhythm to find your form and when you don’t, when you miss matches, it always takes a little bit longer. It’s a little bit more difficult to get back,” he says. “But I will always do my best to get up to speed and 100 per cent as soon as I can.”

Now in his third season at Spurs, he has played in all the central positions in midfield: as a defensive shield, a box-to-box No 8 and also as No 10, with the most important part of his role is having a team that retains possession.

“I wouldn’t say, necessarily, that No 10 is my best position,” he added. “I’m happy to play and adapt to whatever position I’m played in. What I like is if I’m playing in a team and we’re taking risks with the ball.

“When we’re not playing with the ball so much then that’s harder for me. I always like to be on the ball and have possession. But, six, eight, 10, I’ve played them all. It’s true that 10 puts me closer to goal, but I’m happy to play in any position.

“I’m someone who always like to be on the ball. But at the end of the day, as a team, you can’t always have the ball and you just have to bear in mind that running after the ball doesn’t mean you don’t play once you get it. In general terms, I’m also someone who likes to chase down and win the ball.”

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