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Transfer Rater: Iheanacho to Tottenham

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 By Ben Pearce

Njie, Nkoudou trouble leads to Tottenham fans' caution over Marcel

The ESPN FC crew discuss Tottenham and their transfer plans.
The ESPN FC crew discuss Tottenham and their transfer plans.

The start of preseason training beckons, but Tottenham's transfer plans remain unclear as they continue to wait before beginning their transfer business.

While there remains little necessity to jump into action, one issue should at least be resolved shortly. Spurs have an option to permanently sign Spain under-21 goalkeeper Pau Lopez, who spent last season on loan at White Hart Lane. But they would have to make their move soon.

Tottenham are still apparently engaged in a game of brinkmanship as the days tick down towards this early deadline. It remains to be seen whether Lopez becomes the north Londoners' first summer signing, but even if an agreement was reached, his return would probably not be loudly trumpeted by supporters, given he has not made a first-team appearance in England and would presumably be third in line again next term, unless Michel Vorm moves on.

It would take a bit more than that to truly excite the fans. And while there seems to be interest in a winger -- something Spurs need -- the possibility of a move for Nice's 20-year-old Vincent Marcel has been met with an understandably lukewarm reaction.

Marcel's tender age is not really the concern. Spurs fans know that little-known youngsters can quickly turn into stars, like Dele Alli. The problem is that any raw and inexperienced wide man arriving from Ligue 1 this summer would be the third in as many years. There would be a sense of deja vu that would inevitably be accompanied by some eye-rolling.

Clinton Njie came in from Lyon on his 21st birthday in 2015 and only lasted one year before being replaced by Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, another 21-year-old, who signed from Marseille. It now seems entirely possible that history will repeat itself and that Nkoudou, who recently made the error of being pictured wearing a Chelsea shirt, will also be jettisoned after one sole season in north London.

Mauricio Pochettino seemed to make his mind up about Nkoudou fairly early on, back in December, when he turned down a couple of easy opportunities to give his player some positive headlines in a news conference and instead stated: "When you take risks [in the transfer market], sometimes you win and sometimes you lose."

The Argentinian appeared unwilling at the time to give Nkoudou his personal seal of approval, and the lack of game time allocated to the youngster in the second half of the season suggested that the manager saw little value in giving him confidence and opportunities to gel with his teammates. There was little evidence of progress or a gradual integration.

Instead, Nkoudou made just seven appearances in the new year -- six of them off the bench -- and only played for a couple of minutes in the two romps that concluded the campaign. Even Moussa Sissoko was preferred as a substitute in the 7-1 victory at Hull.

Vincent Marcel in action for Nice against Schalke in a Europa League match in November 2016.
Vincent Marcel has been linked with a summer switch to Tottenham.

Some will feel, with some validity, that Nkoudou has not had enough chances to show what he can do, and would be disappointed if he departed. After all, he made an exciting impact off the bench against Aston Villa in January's FA Cup tie, and while the postseason friendly against Kitchee SC in Hong Kong was fairly meaningless, he frightened the hosts with his pace and opened up the defence when Vincent Janssen scored. There is talent there and pace in abundance.

Yet Pochettino has earned great respect, especially when it comes to assessing the potential of young players, and if he feels Nkoudou is below the required standard, then it seems unwise to argue, especially when he has seen rather more of the midfielder on the training ground than the punters.

Given Sissoko's lack of impact as well, it is wholly unsurprising to see Tottenham being linked with another winger. And given their general transfer policy, there is every chance they will be looking for someone with potential, rather than a well-known name.

It has been suggested that Marcel might, if signed, be given longer than his predecessors to find his feet in England and may not immediately be expected to challenge for a first-team spot.

But it would still seem a little cyclical if Spurs once again turned to Ligue 1 to find that elusive, prodigious winger, given their recent experiences. There is something to be said for persistence, for testing the "third time lucky" theory. But on the other hand, you're unlikely to get a different result by doing the same thing over and over.

Tottenham fans would surely welcome Marcel, if he was indeed recruited, and wish him every success. But since they've been disappointed by both Njie and Nkoudou, the excitement that usually greets new signings would probably be tempered with a reasonable degree of caution.

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

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