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 By Tim Vickery

Tottenham signing Davinson Sanchez, a work in progress but a quick riser

Paolo Bandini and the FC crew react to Tottenham's signing of Davinson Sanchez and discuss the options he gives Pochettino.

Things have all happened very quickly in the career of new Tottenham signing Davinson Sanchez.

Just two years ago the 21-year-old centre-back was not even a first-team player with his Colombian club, Atletico Nacional of Medellin. At the end of 2015, after winning the domestic title, Nacional sold Oscar Murillo to Mexican club Pachuca, and Sanchez got his chance.

The club knew they had a promising player on their hands. Sanchez had looked good for Colombia at Under-20 level. He was also a good partner for the team's other centre-back, team captain Alexis Henriquez.

At the veteran stage, Henriquez had all the experience necessary to guide the youngster. He was also an excellent reader of the game. He had been the rock around which Juan Carlos Osorio, now coach of the Mexican national team, constructed his side. The pair worked together at Once Caldas, and when Osorio wrote his famous pitch-side notes, Henriquez was the man who read them and passed on the instructions to his teammates. Osorio took Henriquez to Atletico Nacional, and his successor Reinaldo Rueda retained him as captain.

But Henriquez was not quick. Oscar Murillo had been -- and so was Davinson Sanchez.  He, then, would supply the defensive pace while Henriquez provided the organisation and orientation. Right from the start, they looked a good combination, with Sanchez, for all his gangling build, sure footed on the ground. An early goal in his home debut in the Copa Libertadores against Sporting Cristal helped settle the nerves, and come the end of July, Nacional and Sanchez had crowned themselves champions of South America.

And so, after little more than six months as a first-team player, Davinson Sanchez was already on his way across the Atlantic. Ajax took him to Holland -- a huge vote of confidence in his potential.

Davinson Sanchez has gone from reserve in Colombia, to champion, to Ajax, and now to Tottenham in just two years.

Centre-back in European club football can be one of the hardest positions for a newly arrived South American. But the Amsterdam club had done their scouting well. Where many contemporary South Americans are slow, and prefer to position themselves almost on top of their own goalkeeper, the pace of Sanchez means that he can operate much higher up the field, in the Ajax tradition. 

A successful season in Holland, culminating in an impressive performance in the Europa League final, brought him to the attention of Mauricio Pochettino -- and the Tottenham coach, a centre-back in his playing days, has now taken the Colombian to London.

Where in Colombia he had Alexis Henriquez to help him settle, in London he has a pair of former Ajax centre-backs, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderveireld. But there is still plenty of work to do -- unsurprisingly bearing in mind his limited experience.

Sanchez did not look happy in a back three when Nacional used the formation last year away to Rosario Central in the Libertadores, and will need time on the training field if Pochettino looks to use him in that formation. Moreover, despite his height, he is not nearly as dominant in the air as he should be - a defect which was clear on his senior international debut last November when Colombia went down 3-0 away to Argentina. On the second goal, Sanchez was caught out by Lionel Messi's cross from the right, and was not tight enough to stop centre-forward Lucas Pratto getting a clean header.  His second cap came in June, when he played the first half of a friendly against Spain and was again caught out by a cross played in from the right.

Davinson Sanchez, then, is a work in progress -- but one with the pace and potential to be an asset to Tottenham.

Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.


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