After bursting onto the scene last season, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nabil Bentaleb is determined to establish himself as a first-team regular under new manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Handed his debut in December upon the appointment of Tim Sherwood, who he had starred for in under-21 side, Bentaleb would go on to make 20 appearances in all competitions, while earning mixed reviews for his performances.
Making his international debut for Algeria in March, the French-born midfielder started all three of his side’s group games at the World Cup this summer during their impressive run to the last-16, and now believes he is set up well to push for a place in Pochettino’s starting XI this season.
‘One or two tried to say I was only in the team because Tim Sherwood knew me from the youth teams,’ he told The Sun.
‘If people think I am still that little kid, then that's up to them, but I have been to the World Cup and I am looking forward to improving even more at Tottenham under the new manager.
‘This time last year I could never have dreamt I would go to the World Cup,’ he added. ‘My aim back then was just to try to get near the first team at Tottenham but, once you achieve one goal, you set yourself a new one and everything I set myself last season I achieved, and more.
‘Now I want to keep improving at Tottenham and be a regular starter.’
Still just 19, Bentaleb remains an exciting prospect for the Tottenham first-team, but he also faces strong competition for minutes in 2014-15, with the likes of Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Moussa Dembele, Tom Carroll and Sandro all fighting for places in Pochettino’s squad.
The latter’s rumoured departure could make life somewhat easier, but that’s before factoring in the possible addition of Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, who the former Saints boss is keen to reunite with at White Hart Lane.
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Bentaleb has demonstrated during his short top-flight career that he no doubt has a bright Premier League future ahead of him, but whether 2014-15 will be the one in which he is allowed to push on and further prove that he is the real deal remains to be seen.