Clement Lenglet has told football.london that this was his moment to join Tottenham Hotspur rather than last summer and suggested talk over a permanent move could come later if he succeeds in the Premier League.
The 27-year-old signed on loan from Barcelona last month, just missing out on the chance to travel on Spurs‘ tour to South Korea as he arrived after the deadline for a visa to play in the country. He remained at Hotspur Way, working hard on his fitness and then took a part in the later friendlies against Rangers and Roma with positive contributions from the bench.
This was not the first time Spurs had attempted to sign Lenglet as football.london reported earlier this summer that the club’s managing director Fabio Paratici tried to bring in the experienced France international on loan a year previously but the player turned down the chance of a move to north London at that point.
“Last year wasn’t the moment,” confirmed Lenglet. “I was playing a lot with Barcelona the year before and I was with a lot of energy to play for Barcelona. Then the last year I played less, so it was a good opportunity for me this summer. I spoke with Fabio, with the manager, with my team-mates to take the decision. It was very clear for me.”
Lenglet apologised in advance of this interview for his ability to speak the English language but in truth it was excellent and that will aid his adaption to the team, the country and the Premier League. However, when it comes to the long term there is no option to make the Frenchman’s season-long loan a permanent move.
So what happens if, as he and the club hopes, he proves to be a big success in the Premier League and there is the desire to make the fleeting relationship a longer union?
“I don’t know. For the moment, I need to play, I need to be good. I hope this happens and if it’s like this, we’ll speak more later, but for the moment I need to work to be a good player,” he said while adding that the club have not spoken to him yet about what might come later. “We haven’t spoken like this,” said the defender.
Lenglet has left, at least temporarily, a club in Barcelona that has had big financial problems in recent seasons but has started to spend big money on players again, albeit with some reported concerns in recent days about whether there needs to still be salary cuts.
When it was suggested to the Frenchman that from the outside that life at the Catalan club looks a bit chaotic, he laughed before simply suggesting: “I don’t know but if they can buy players, they have the money. I know the president, I know the club and I am sure if they do that, they are sure of what they do. It’s not important for me [at the moment].”
One very familiar face in the Spurs locker room for Lenglet is the club captain and his good friend and compatriot Hugo Lloris. While out in Korea, the World Cup winning France skipper had told football.london what the Tottenham fans can expect from the newcomer.
“About Clement, I’m really happy. Obviously I would have preferred him to be here with the team but it was not to be and he is working very hard to make sure he is going to be ready to work with the team soon,” said Lloris. “You know he’s the kind of player who is going to help the team, obviously with his experience, having played in a club like Barcelona and also his experience with the national team, even if the last few times he was not called, I think he has the ambition to get back in the national team.
“As a player I think he’s a modern defender, comfortable to be able to play from the back, he has a great left foot and he can be very strong in one vs one and he’s strong in the air. Even if it’s never easy when you arrive in the Premier League and he will have to adapt to the intensity of the games but he is a high level player. Also I’m even more happy because I have a good connection with him and also a great relationship with him. He has a great personality and he will adapt well to the team.”
Lenglet admitted that he had a chat with Lloris before putting pen to paper for Spurs and that he feels that he can improve himself as well as the team’s level this season.
“I spoke to Hugo before my signature in Tottenham. Of course when you sign in this club you want to be a better player individually but to improve the team too,” he explained. “We want the team to be a better team than last year’s and we hope we are doing a lot of good things this season.”
Lenglet’s versatility will be important to Spurs as he can play on the left of Antonio Conte’s back three as well as in the centre of it when required. He showed in the match against Roma last weekend that he can provide an attacking thrust down the left with his technique as he dribbled past one player, got to the touchline and delivered a perfect cross that fellow centre-back Cristian Romero headed just wide.
Lenglet said that Conte did not speak to him about where he would play on the pitch before he joined and that his attacking forays will depend on the set-up of the opposition.
“No, he didn’t speak about my position. The coach wanted me in Tottenham, I spoke with the coach before my signature. I came for work and to help the team. We didn’t speak about position,” said the defender before adding about his runs forward: “It depends on the game. This game [against Roma] I think we needed this in my position high up the pitch to attack the space.
“I tried to help the team with my run and my cross. We didn’t score a goal but I tried to help the team. If we played against a 4-3-3, it could be different. But tonight was the moment for me to go more forward on the pitch.”
Spurs’ newest centre-back is excited about playing in the Premier League, a competition which he has watched as a youngster with all its stars.
“A lot of players. I have seen the Premier League since I was very young, I saw Drogba, Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Thierry Henry too,” he said. “A lot of big players shining in this league. It’s a beautiful league to watch on the TV and I am very happy to be here to fight in this moment.”
Lenglet has not been selected in the France squad since November last year and he hopes that if he can get back to making regular starts with Spurs then he can keep alive his international dream of going to the World Cup this winter.
“It’s important for me. I missed the last selection. I wasn’t in the team. When you are a football player, you want to play this type of competitions,” he said. “I’m here to play, to help the team to play good and to be better. I hope that if I have an opportunity to go with the selection, it will be for me a dream. I’m working for that too.”