Within minutes of verifying Christian Eriksen’s departure, the permanent signing of Giovani Lo Celso was announced.
Eriksen’s departure had been anticipated. In the long run, the Nerazzurri decided they could not wait and paid the money.
Spurs acted quickly, declaring they’d paid £27.2million to create Lo Celso’s loan move from Real Betis permanent, little over four weeks after he moved to England to a season-long loan.
With only 524 minutes of Premier League action under his belt, that may have come as a surprise to people on the outside.
“I believe the boy is making the choice [to signal him],” Mourinho stated earlier this week.
“He is making a simple choice for the club to execute the option.”
Mourinho continued:”Unbelievable evolution since I came. Barely played a match, I think he played against Red Star Belgrade, with me a little bit hard to come in the first few weeks.
“But he knew what we wanted. Superior learner, superior kid.
“By himself, he decided that the club will execute the option. That is normal, he made it.”
It wasn’t till November 6 and Tottenham 4-0 triumph in Belgrade against Red Star who Lo Celso made his first start for his new team. Injury had restricted the prior Paris Saint-Germain prodigy to a couple of substitute outings.
But he did not start consecutive matches again before the turn of this year. His current run of four begins, two in the FA Cup and 2 in the Premier League, is his best run for the North Londoners.
The fact Mourinho has sanctioned off his signing the back of such a small sample size is a testament to just how great he has been in this age.
But despite his target return, it is farther back Lo Celso could prove a very important element for Mourinho’s Spurs, eventually replacing a much-missed former White Hart Lane favorite: Mousa Dembélé.
Like Lo Celso, the Belgian arrived as more of an attack-minded participant — Fulham, after all, signed him from AZ as a striker before he slowly moved to the bottom of midfield. In doing this, Dembélé became among the greatest in his character, combining the defensive nous of a No.6 with the attacking trends, ball-carrying vision and ability of No.10.
Lo Celso has played a similar function in the past couple of matches for Mourinho’s Tottenham, playing in the bottom of midfield alongside Harry Winks. Neither is an out-and-out ball-winner, however, taking his information for the previous four matches, Lo Celso has averaged an impressive 3.34 tackles per 90, winning 1.8.
Once in possession, Lo Celso is not afraid to try things and gets up his side the area. He’s a really dangerous ball carrier, slaloming through midfield traffic to finish a whopping 3.6 mph 90, trying 4.37, a very substantial completion rate.
Because of this, the 19-time Argentine foreign averages 7.71 final-third entrances and 3.09 touches in the resistance box, Winks has not had any in this timeframe.
Although his passing is not as accurate as Winks’, standing at only 82 percent compared to the England international’s 88 percent, 37.4 percent of Lo Celso’s passes go forwards, which underlines the fact he’s a penetrative, incisive consumer of the chunk.
The gap between the two is apparent from their departure sonars (below) which show the direction of the moves from the Premier League this year.
Tottenham have been looking for a midfielder like Lo Celso because giving up on aging and increasingly injury-prone Dembélé, letting him combine Super League side Guangzhou from the 2019 January transfer window.
Spurs have missed someone in the front of the back four, and a person knitting things together between the middle and final third. Lo Celso can do.
Mourinho’s sporadic use of Eric Dier and Winks indicates the notoriously hard-to-please Portuguese has not been entirely delighted with his central midfield alternatives. Until now.