Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nabil Bentaleb is facing six weeks on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on his latest injury, according to Sky Sports.
Sky Sports reports that the Algerian picked up a knee problem playing for Tottenham’s U21s last Friday, and will miss all but their last two games of the season.
Bentaleb’s campaign has been so disrupted that his absence will not be a major blow to Spurs in their chase of Leicester City in the Premier League title race.
But the 21-year-old still has the potential to be a great asset to Mauricio Pochettino in the long term, and could impact like a new signing upon returning next season.
The youngster showed real promise when he broke through under Tim Sherwood and established himself as a first-team regular in Pochettino’s first season in charge.
This year has been a major disappointment. He mustered two league starts in August, and two more appearances off the bench before succumbing to an ankle injury.
Bentaleb’s only top-flight football since has been two minutes against Crystal Palace in January, as he has struggled to win his place back in a settled Tottenham team.
He has played three full games in the FA Cup and made two substitute outings in the Europa League since December, but seems to have been used as a last resort.
Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele have excelled alongside each other in midfield, while Ryan Mason and Tom Carroll have been ahead of him in Pochettino’s pecking order.
Yet he was anything but a last resort the previous season. He made 25 league starts, and was handed a five-year contract by the club in July 2015, as The Guardian reports.
Carroll has been preferred to Bentaleb time and again this season, and yet his contract expires in the summer, according to WalesOnline – an indication that he is not considered as good a long-term investment as Bentaleb, and may only be filling in for the Algerian.
Although Tottenham have kicked on this term, not enough has happened on the pitch to make Pochettino change his mind about Bentaleb’s prospects at White Hart Lane.
So it must be something else. The two options; attitude or fitness. It could be either, it could be both, but injuries have certainly played their part in his development stalling.
Pochettino puts his young squad through a lot, and Bentaleb also represented his country at the 2014 World Cup, and the Africa Cup of Nations the following January.
Fellow youngsters Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Dier have largely withstood Pochettino’s demands without injury. Bentaleb has been less fortunate, but should not be written off.
He has a battle on his hands to dislodge either Dier or Dembele in midfield, but the latter has had his own fitness problems, and the former has arguably been overworked.
Dembele’s absence would weaken Spurs less significantly, and Dier would not have had to start 46 of 48 games this season, if Bentaleb was fit and in the form of 2014-15.
Bentaleb is far more capable of pushing the Dier and Dembele pairing than Mason or Carroll. He has the physicality to play for Pochettino’s Spurs and the technique to match.
Return to pre-season injury free and with a willingness to learn and work hard, and Bentaleb could work his way up to becoming a highly valued member of Pochettino’s group.
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