Tottenham Hotspur completed their second summer signing last week when they sealed a deal for Belgian winger Nacer Chadli. The 23-year-old has been one of Holland’s top prospects since he made a name for himself at FC Twente after signing in 2010 from AGOVV Aplendoorn, a side currently playing in the Dutch 6th division. He joined Tottenham in a £7m deal, perhaps a steep fee, but if he can deliver like he has done at Twente it will be a bargain price.
Previously a Moroccan international due to his heritage, Chadli made his debut for Belgium in 2011 and is now a key member of the talented youth generation emerging in Belgium. Playing in the Premier League will be a massive boost for Chadli as he aims to become a first team starter in Belgium’s World Cup squad.
One very important advantage that Chadli has is versatility. For Belgium, he has played as a striker, while at Twente he was featured across the midfield. A perfect fit into the Tottenham system, Nacer Chadli may not be the typical export from the Eredivise. A hard working, industrious winger, he has the attributes to be successful in England. Andre Villas-Boas spoke of his versatility shortly after completing the deal:
“He’s a player who is extremely versatile and can play in several positions up front. He played with tremendous success on the left for Twente as a winger and as an attacker for Belgium.”
Tottenham heavily relied on the effect from both wings last season, with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon as the focal point of the attack. A goalscorer as well as a creator, Nacer Chadli is the type of player that can win football matches for a side.
The signing of Chadli does raise the question of where Gylfi Sigurdsson, Clint Dempsey, and Lewis Holtby will play. Clint Dempsey perhaps would be the one shifted, his role in the squad last season mostly fit the bill of where Chadli would end up. However, Clint Dempsey’s contribution in pre-season may result in Nacer Chadli bench warming for much of the season.
There is an argument to suggest that Nacer Chadli is not needed by Tottenham, but all three reasons mentioned above can offer what Chadli can do, arguably to a better standard. There certainly isn’t any fear that they won’t fit in. Gylfi Sigurdsson was arguably one of Tottenham’s better performers last season, contributing in important games in both the Premier League and Europa League. Nacer Chadli cannot expect to waltz into the Tottenham team.
Nacer Chadli will add more of a Belgian presence to the Tottenham dressing room, becoming the third Belgian in the team alongside Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Dembele. A strong relationship with Dembele on the field could be a massive success for Tottenham next season. While it was all Bale last season, this season may be the time to talk about Tottenham’s “Belgian contingent.”
Dutch football website Dutch Football League drew a comparison with Cristiano Ronaldo: “Chadli is a very strong winger with great pace and technique. Like Cristiano Ronaldo, he tends to challenge his direct opponent skipping past him to set up a cross, or cut through the middle and fire off a shot with his right foot. His left foot is one of his weaker areas, but he compensates it very well with his almighty right foot. His shots are very precise and hard working. Fitting in with the physicality will also be no problem for Chadli.”
The site went on to say that fitting in with the physicality of the Premier League will also be no problem: “Nacer is a pure athelete and physically very strong; standing 1.88 cm tall he’s a threat for most defenders and it will be hard to knock him off the ball. Combining his strength with his pace, he wrecks havoc to every right-back in the Eredivisie. The comparison drawn between Chadli and Ronaldo are justified, although not on the same level; their pace, strength, technique, composure, and long-range shot are very similar.”
If Chadli can come close to these comparison with Cristiano Ronaldo, then Tottenham fans are in for a treat. Two Ronaldo types in the Tottenham squad may have them dreaming of a Champions League; the only task left is to keep Gareth Bale.