From Champions League final to Sampdoria loan: Why it went wrong for Harry Winks at Tottenham

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or those in the room, one of the most memorable moments of Nuno Espirito Santo’s otherwise forgettable era was Harry Winks’ impassioned post-match interview in Arnhem.

A second string of Tottenham had just lost 1-0 to Vitesse Arnhem in the Europa Conference League after Nuno left his XI for the upcoming derby against West Ham at home, and Winks took the opportunity to criticize the two-man Portuguese side levels.

“We’re supposed to be a team,” Winks said visibly frustrated. “It’s supposed to be a competition. It’s supposed to be competitive.

The interview was a message on behalf of Nuno’s disenchanted team, but also felt like a lament over his own career, which had quickly taken a nosedive at this point.

Asked if he could explain his fall from one of England’s great prospects to Spurs’ B team, Winks replied: “No. No I can not. But listen, circumstances put me in this situation.

Explaining the trajectory of Winks, who joined Serie A club Sampdoria yesterday on loan for the rest of the season, is not straightforward but Arnhem is a good place to start.

Winks looked miserable, much like a player who had fallen in love with the game and desperately needed a fresh start away from his boyhood club.

His display at Arnhem had been ineffective and was characteristic of Winks’ last two seasons at Spurs, when he found himself trapped in a vicious cycle of underperformance under managers who did not appear to value his skills.

Jose Mourinho, Nuno and Antonio Conte have all felt uncomfortable for Winks, favoring a more physical and less possession-based approach than Mauricio Pochettino, who gave the 26-year-old his chance at Spurs and took him on. launched in a Champions League final. .

Under Mourinho and Nuno, Winks was largely reduced to appearances in the Europa League, Conference League or domestic cups, often in full-fledged player hodgepodge XIs.

He was unable to build rhythm and form without a string of appearances and yet didn’t deserve more playing time based on such disappointing cameos.

As he lost confidence, his game became either too sure or too forced, and he often struggled to adjust to the rhythm of games coming off the bench.

It was a far cry from Winks under Pochettino, who was able to dictate the pace of games and unlock opponents with quick, incisive passing and his ability to get away from his man.

Harry Winks played his best football at Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino

/ Getty Images

At his best, Winks has faced some of the best midfielders in the world, including leading the game at the Bernabeu in Spurs’ 1-1 draw in the Champions League group stage in October 2017 and playing in their 3 – 1 home win two weeks later.

Shortly before he cut such a downhearted figure at Arnhem, Winks was touted as a potential solution to England’s historic midfield problem and he started the famous 3-2 win over Spain in October. 2018, and has been spoken to by Gareth Southgate on more than one occasion.

The snappy midfielder seemed to have the qualities that England lacked in Russia at the previous summer’s World Cup, including an ability to keep possession for possession’s sake and, as Southgate pointed out, “connect defense to attack”.

Like many players in Pochettino’s great Spurs side – including Dele Alli – Winks never seemed to have the same spark following the Argentine’s sacking and appeared to be a player in need of a change of scene during over a year, despite brief revivals under Ryan. Mason and Conte.

He was also unfortunate with injuries, tearing ankle ligaments on his third Premier League start at Burnley in April 2017.

Winks showed few ill effects but admitted two years later he was still playing through the pain barrier for Spurs.

He also underwent groin surgery five weeks before the 2019 Champions League final, and it was a measure of Pochettino’s faith in Winks that he started against Liverpool regardless.

Sampdoria weren’t Winks’ first choice – he would have preferred to stay in the Premier League if possible – but the Italian club have confirmed the deal includes an option to buy, raising the possibility that Winks’ move to the Serie A can be more than just a stopgap.

The priority for the midfielder will be to find his rhythm under a manager who values ​​what he can offer.


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