Why Tottenham want to sign Micky van de Ven
Tottenham Hotspur have a history of pilfering centre-backs schooled in the Ajax style of football.
Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld both honed their craft in the Amsterdam club’s academy before starting the 2019 Champions League final alongside one another for Spurs. Davinson Sanchez, watching on from the bench that night, was Tottenham’s record transfer at the time after Ajax accepted a £42m bid in 2017.
Micky van de Ven is set to continue that sequence of Ajax-infused acquisitions even though he has never worn the club’s colours in a competitive setting.
Here’s why Spurs are on the brink of bringing Van de Ven to north London this summer.
The former Netherlands international Keje Molenaar found it ‘incomprehensible’ that Ajax failed to snaffle up Van de Den when he left FC Volendam for Bundesliga side Wolfsburg in the summer of 2021.
“As an Ajax scout, there are a few elements that you have to look at in defenders,” Molenaar explained. “Those are physicality, agility, speed and heading power. Micky has all those elements.”
These talents – which managed to convince Spurs if not Ajax – were honed in Volendam’s youth team that operated under a policy known as ‘Plan Cruyff’. Ruben Jongkind was formerly the head of talent development at Ajax before becoming a director at Volendam, a modest club north of the Dutch capital.
The plan, simply put, was to implement the same principles of play that have fostered the scores of talented youngsters to have emerged from Ajax over the years – with Johan Cruyff the ultimate example.
Jongkind described Van de Ven as an archetypal “Cruyffian defender”. While stopping opposition attacks is a consideration, starting your own team’s forward thrusts is an obligation.
If Tottenham are to fully buy into Ange Postecoglou’s playing ideals of a possession-based game, they need defenders that are not skittish on the ball. While Van de Ven may not repeatedly pierce opposition lines with scalpel passes, his natural left-footedness opens up a wealth of angles for Tottenham’s buildup play.
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Van de Ven is also highly accomplished at carrying the ball forward but arguably his greatest strength lies out of possession.
“I can say I’m fast, I think,” Van de Ven grinned when outlining his best qualities.
“Incredible speed,” Jongkind concurred. “I have never seen something like that.”
Despite standing at a towering 6’4, Van de Ven is lightning across the turf. Last season, the 22-year-old recorded the fastest velocity of any Bundesliga centre-back, tipping the dials at a frightening 35.96km/h. For comparison, Marcus Rashford’s top speed for Manchester United in the Premier League last term was the marginally inferior 35.95km/h.
Tottenham’s backline (and frontline) is not blessed with pace. Van de Ven is hardly the complete defender but burning speed certainly covers plenty of sins – particularly if Postecoglou intends to replicate the advanced back four he has regularly employed to squeeze the pitch with a fervent press off the ball.
Tottenham entered negotiations with Wolfsburg in June, as 90min revealed at the time. After letting Clement Lenglet – a considerably slower lefty – return to Barcelona after an underwhelming loan spell, Spurs were in the market for multiple centre-backs.
Manchester United’s Harry Maguire, Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Max Kilman were on the first shortlist of alternatives which soon evolved to more realistic options outside the Premier League.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba – a direct rival of Van de Ven in the Bundesliga – emerged as another prime option for Spurs. Tottenham were still in talks with Xabi Alonso’s side regarding Tapsoba in the second half of July as the club weighed up the highly rated duo.
Talks between Spurs and Wolfsburg accelerated at the start of August and Van de Ven was booked in for his medical one week before the new Premier League campaign begins. Van de Ven and his former agent Mino Raiola, who passed away in April 2022, took his former club Volendam to court when they refused initial bids from Marseille in 2021.
Wolfsburg have been far more accommodating. The Bundesliga side, which finished a disappointing eighth last season, have agreed to a deal with Tottenham that could rise to £43.5m.
On this week’s edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Toby Cudworth is joined by Graeme Bailey to discuss the next steps in Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane hunt, Brighton rejecting another Chelsea bid for Moises Caicedo, who has had the most impressive transfer window so far & more!
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