Tottenham Hotspur are so impressed with the impact Dele Alli has made that they are trying to find and sign the next generation of talented teenagers from the Football League, before any of their Premier League rivals do.
Spurs have identified Moussa Dembélé of Fulham, Ademola Lookman of Charlton Athletic and James Maddison of Coventry City as the three best youngsters in the lower leagues, and are trying to sign them this month on deals similar to the one that brought Alli to Tottenham last year.
Alli has been the story of this season, making his England debut and earning a new contract despite only making his Spurs debut in August. Tottenham paid MK Dons £5m for him last January, before loaning him back for the rest of last season. The fact that Alli played two years of competitive football at MK Dons in League One is thought to have been crucial to his development. Spurs, through head of recruitment Paul Mitchell and former manager David Pleat, are now trying to find the next similar teenager.
Tottenham’s top priority this month is a striker, which is why Dembélé at Fulham is so attractive. The 19-year-old French striker has scored 11 goals for his club already this campaign. But with Fulham now 19th in the Championship, anxious about relegation to League One and under a transfer embargo, they are reluctant to sell Dembélé, even after weeks of negotiations with Tottenham.
If Spurs cannot complete a deal for him before the window closes next week they would be favourites to sign him this summer, with a fee to be set by tribunal.
Tottenham are also pursuing the possibility of signing two English teenagers on deals similar to the one that took Alli to Spurs, with a transfer in January but a loan for the rest of the season.
Lookman is a talented, direct 18-year-old at Charlton, who can play on the left-wing or as a No 10. Charlton are currently second from bottom in the Championship. But Lookman has been their brightest spark so far this season,. He only has 18 months left on his professional contract and, while Charlton have offered him a new deal, Spurs are favourites to sign him, ahead of Manchester City and Everton. No formal bid has been made yet but an offer of £4m, with a six-month loan back, would likely be enough.
The player in League One who has been compared to Alli the most is Maddison, Coventry City’s gifted 19-year-old who has just returned from four months out with an ankle injury.
Coventry might be persuaded to sell Maddison this month if they receive a £5m fee and he is loaned back to them for the remainder of their promotion push. But the club know that if they are promoted to the Championship – they are fifth in League One – they could charge up to £8m or £9m for Maddison. There is an incentive for Spurs to move quickly.
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