Lewis Holtby: The one that got away for Tottenham

The 23-year old seemed tailor-made for Mauricio Pochettino’s system but could never find his feet at Spurs.

Today saw the long-awaited confirmation of Lewis Holtby’s Tottenham Hotspur exit, as per the club’s official website, and for many fans his failure at White Hart Lane remains something of an enigma.

Holtby arrived in January 2013 from Schalke and at the time was lauded as one of Germany’s best young prospects. With Spurs securing his services for around £1 million, the consensus was that Daniel Levy had pulled off yet another transfer special.

The reality never quite lived up to the hype and despite flashes of his talent, the young German was unable to cement his place in Andre Villas Boas’ team. Tim Sherwood’s arrival midway through the 2013-14 season didn’t help his cause and he was loaned out to Fulham in January.

He again showed glimpses of what he could do in his short time at Craven Cottage but manager Felix Magath’s public attack – claiming Holtby was 'not a fighter' – left relationships strained.

Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival in May 2014 seemed to signify the chance for a fresh start for the midfielder and the Argentinian’s fondess for aggressive, hungry players who cover distance in central midfield was apparent from his Saints team. The stage was set and Lewis Holtby was to be Tottenham’s very own Steven Davis.

The German travelled with Spurs on their North American tour and impressed during the friendlies, with his work-rate and eye for a key pass fully on display.

Needless to say, Holtby’s loan to Hamburg, upon the team’s return, came as a surprise to many fans.

That the likes of Etienne Capoue and Paulinho, and to a lesser extent Mousa Dembele, remained in the squad while Holtby was moved on seemed a strange move at the time.

It became apparent over the course of the season that Pochettino didn’t particularly trust any of his back-up central midfielders, which led to burnout on the part of Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb.

Holtby is perhaps most similar to Mason in the current Spurs squad, and although the German hardly set the world alight at Hamburg, he would surely have provided better cover and a more like-for-like alternative than the rest of Spurs' reserve midfielders.

He displayed enough in his limited time in England to suggest that he could have been a useful squad player. His energy in midfield would have been a great asset late on in games and his technical quality shouldn't be underestimated. 

The former Spurs man is a better passer than given credit for and rather than key balls in the final third leading to goals and assists, it is simply the tempo at which he plays that would have complimented Pochettino's team far better than the ponderous nature of a Capoue or Paulinho.

Alas, it's a relationship that was not to be and one which may become more poignant should the little German recapture his form back home. 

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