Modric had been the club’s creative nucleus for the past four seasons but, at 27, the Croatian took his last chance of a big move away from the Lane.
A full international, the Belgian Dembele has appeared 41 times for the senior team, scoring 5 goals. He worked his way through the ranks at Willem II and AZ Alkmaar, fending off as a teenager interest from Dutch side Ajax, to whom AZ lost the final of the KNVB Beker in the 2006/7 season, failing to qualify for the Champion’s League, despite Dembele’s six goals for the club.
Despite a knee injury in the 2007/8 season, Dembele was hailed as one of the best players of the Eredivisie season but with AZ finishing in twelfth place, Dembele looked for a move to the Premier League.
Initial interest from Birmingham City saw him decline in favour of a move to London where he signed for Fulham in August 2010 for £5million.
Dembele performed well in his first season at the club, scoring on his starting debut against Port Vale in the League Cup, after coming on as a substitute against Manchester United.
Martin Jol’s Fulham side saw Dembele move to a more creative midfield position where he excelled, prompting the club to renegotiate his contract in the 2011/12 season, in an attempt to fend off interest from other clubs but, eventually, his head was turned by the prospect of playing for Spurs.
He was followed to the Lane by his former Fulham colleague Clint Dempsey, who together may provide Spurs with the ammunition to qualify for Champion’s League football next year.
Whilst Dembele has to improve if he intends to fill the boots of Luka Modric, the payer possesses some qualities the Croatian does not, offering a different option for new Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas.
At 6ft1” he uses his strength and stature to shield the ball in possession. He has great technical ability and can penetrate the opposing defence with his pace and acceleration. His passing is, whilst not at the level of Modric’s, exceptional – his vision and imagination, finding space and time to delicately carve out a clinical final ball into the box.
He will need time to adapt to Villas-Boas’s system at Spurs this season but his industry and commitment will ensure he makes the transition quickly and effectively. I anticipate him becoming a real threat this season.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald