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Transfer Rater: Eriksen to Barcelona

Football Whispers
 By Ben Pearce

Nabil Bentaleb's Tottenham future is cloudy at best

Nabil Bentaleb's sorry season appeared to come to a dismal end on Tuesday after he underwent surgery on his knee, having been injured in an Under-21 fixture.

Even if he is back in training in six weeks, as expected, and there are a couple of first-team games remaining, it seems unlikely he will be rushed back into action, having fallen so far down the pecking order.

The Algeria international has experienced a real downturn in fortunes after his remarkable rise.

He represented his country at the 2014 World Cup and then became a key player in Mauricio Pochettino's first season at White Hart Lane in 2014-15.

But due to injuries, his own poor form and the success of his teammates -- notably Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele -- Bentaleb has only played 11 times for Pochettino's side this term.

So what lies ahead for the youngster? Has this season simply been a reality check after a golden period, or will he be deemed surplus to requirements this summer?

It seems strange to suggest that such a prodigious talent could be sold but, then again, Andros Townsend's Spurs career ended with a spell in the Under-21s after he failed to earn a regular place in the first-team squad.

Much depends on Bentaleb's relationship with Pochettino. There is a common assumption that there has been a falling-out, possibly dating back to the 21-year-old's ill-advised comments in June when he was waiting to agree to a new contract and stated he was "getting a little bit tired" of the delay and that "it is annoying when you don't feel treated as you should be."

It seemed at the time that Bentaleb had overestimated his own importance, and so it has proved.

Yet it is worth noting that Emmanuel Adebayor recently said he had a "beautiful" relationship with Pochettino, despite being comprehensively frozen out in the second half of last season before being released from his contract in September.

Kyle Walker praised the head coach's man management skills earlier this month, and while Bentaleb is sure to be frustrated and disappointed, it does not necessarily follow that he feels anger towards his boss, or that Pochettino has given up on him.

Nabil Bentaleb
Nabil Bentaleb has hardly featured this season for Tottenham.

His situation may alert other clubs, though. The Algerian keenly announced last summer that he "had some interest from big clubs, from Champions League clubs" and that he was "really flattered."

His suitors might feel that now is a good time to make a move, believing his value has surely fallen over the past 12 months. But, for that very reason, Tottenham could easily decide to keep him, hand him a clean slate next season and give him the chance to realise the unmistakable potential he has shown in previous campaigns.

Either way, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will have a figure in mind and will give short shrift to any bids that fall below it, unless Pochettino is indeed keen to move the midfielder on.

Whatever happens, whether Bentaleb leaves this summer or in the future, Tottenham will make another big profit on an academy product, having already banked £12 million when Andros Townsend joined Newcastle in January.

Indeed, that is something of a theme throughout the squad. While Spurs had to cut their losses on the likes of Roberto Soldado and Paulinho last summer, they now have a group of players where the vast majority are increasing in value -- markedly, in some cases.

Harry Kane is rumoured to be worth around £60m, having cost Tottenham nothing, and his fellow England internationals Dier and Dele Alli arrived for just £4m and £5m, respectively.

They would now cost a great deal more, as would the other two players in the current Three Lions squad, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker. Rose moved to White Hart Lane for a mere £1m in 2007, while it is thought Spurs paid £8m to sign both Walker and Kyle Naughton in 2009.

The list goes on. Some fans might have been underwhelmed by the first two signings last summer -- Kevin Wimmer (£4.3m) and Kieran Trippier (£3.5m) -- but they have both played their part in Tottenham's title challenge and look like shrewd recruits who will improve and become valuable members of the squad.

Meanwhile, Toby Alderweireld (£11.5m) is looking like more of a bargain with every passing game and arguably deserves to be named Spurs' player of the season.

There are a few exceptions, as always. Erik Lamela will always struggle to justify his exorbitant £30m fee and Heung-Min Son (£22m) and Clinton Njie (£12m) have a bit of work to do in that regard.

However, having made some expensive mistakes in the past, Tottenham have made some shrewd investments in the last two years and can be sure of some very healthy returns if and when they decide to sell any of their stars.

Ben is ESPN FC's Tottenham blogger. Follow on Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.


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