Dejan Kulusevski will become a key part of Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham Hotspur plans for next season after the club made his deal permanent.
Spurs announced on Saturday that they had made the 23-year-old’s loan move from Juventus permanent, with the Swede having signed a five-year contract until 2028. The Serie A side confirmed that the north London club had “exercised the option rights for the final acquisition of the registration rights to player Dejan Kulusevski for an amount of €30 million (£25.6 million) to be paid over six financial years”.
Some reports in Italy last month indicated that Kulusevski would return to Juventus at the end of his loan deal at Spurs, as there was only an obligation to sign him if they qualified for the Champions League next season, which they didn’t after a disappointing campaign. .
soccer.london reported at the time that Tottenham had always fully intended to take the option of keeping the Sweden international in the N17, and that quickly became clear as they used him front and center to promote their July 23 pre-season friendly against Leicester in Bangkok, the month after his loan ended.
The club also made Kulusevski’s name one of five players fans could access via a quick tab to appear on the back of their new Nike home shirt for next season, as they always intended him to be there in the following campaign.
Despite reported interest from Newcastle, Spurs had the safety net of the original £35m option. euros to buy Kulusevski (£29.9m) could pay for itself within five years, so negotiated with Juventus, prompting the Italian side to strike a further £4.3m. the price tag and another year to pay it off.
READ MORE: James Maddison and Tottenham’s summer transfer plans to help transform Postecoglou’s midfield
Postecoglou approved the move and Kulusevski was keen to stay at the Premier League club, so the deal was signed and sealed before the loan had reached its conclusion.
It’s a bargain price to buy a player with so much potential, with Spurs getting a Premier League-ready player for £25.6m for at least the next five years. They paid €3m (£2.5m) for the first six months of his loan and €7m (£6m) for last season, and while the second campaign was tough for Kulusevski, it will have been money well spent into the future on his adaptation and training in the English game.
For the 23-year-old already has 22 direct goal involvements in 48 Premier League games – 15 assists and seven goals. Kulusevski’s start to life at Tottenham was so dramatic that he ended up the first player to end a Premier League season in the top ten in assists in less than 20 appearances as he helped sweep the club to a top four finish .
He is a creative player who also likes the hard side of football, the hard work in training and pushing himself to the limit.
When soccer.london asked Kulusevski last summer about once saying he loved to suffer and feel pain, he said: “It’s great, it’s really great to have pain everywhere. I think that’s a great thing to know? I love to work hard because everything in life comes from hard work. It’s a little hard, sure, nothing is easy, but that’s what you have to do to become a champion.”
This season has been tougher for the Swede for various reasons. He picked up a hamstring injury while on international duty last September which kept him out for a month and then after the World Cup break a knee problem kept him out for another couple of weeks. That meant he played just three Premier League games in four months.
It disrupted his rhythm during the campaign and Kulusevski went from six involved goals (one goal and five assists) in his first 10 games of the Premier League season to one goal and two assists in the remaining 20.
“It’s been a long season, very long. It started very well and then I had a couple of injuries for the first time in my career,” Kulusevski said last month. “So after that I felt really good, but I started to dip. I had a dip from maybe February where I wasn’t playing that well.
“Then I started playing better and in the last months I played quite well, but the only thing missing is maybe the last pass and the goals. So of course a disappointing season, but no regrets. I know I gave everything.”
When asked if Spurs fans would see the best of him next season, he added: “To be honest there were a lot of games this season that I played well too. As I mentioned I had a month where I struggled , but this is normal – no players do not fight.
“You want to keep that time as short as possible, so when you’re not in a good mood, you might play badly for two or three games and not a whole month. I have to be better in that aspect, but I know that I can do much more in the future.”
The main problem for Kulusevski was the syndrome in the second season, when opposition defenders and leaders knew more about him and the need to prepare for his movement. The Swede’s favorite move is to cut inside from the right flank and use his left foot to devastating effect whether shooting or crossing.
At the best of times it is difficult to defend against as an individual, even when you know it is coming, but with multiple defenders anticipating it, they can work as a unit to deny this opportunity and the advantage for Tottenham is, that it will have forced Kulusevski to continue to adapt and add to his game.
It’s easy to forget that the Sweden international is only 23 because the former Serie A Young Player of the Year already has so much experience to his name with 170 top-flight games in Italy and England.
Antonio Conte said of Kulusevski in his first season: “He’s showing that he’s a great player at the moment, but also him, if he continues like this, he can become a really important player. He’s strong physically, good technically, he has no fear of the opponent or the tackle.”
He added: “We are talking about an important prospect. He is very young and, despite his young age, he has good experience with the national team. Playing with Juventus for a year and a half, you understand what it means to live with pressure, surely he could break [into the elite] in the future.
“Also because I can see the intensity, the will and the desire to play. Like every day in the training session, he is a type of player thinking about becoming a top player in his career.”
Former Italy star Antonio Cassano blasted Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri for letting him and Rodrigo Bentancur go, calling the Swede “sensational, with assists and goals”.
Acting head coach Ryan Mason praised Kulusevski last month when he spoke soccer.london about the Swede.
“I love Deki as a player. I think he has so much room to grow and be a top, top player, even though he is already a top, top player,” he said.
There is no doubt at Tottenham that last season was nothing more than a learning curve for Kulusevski and he is expected to flourish within Postecoglou’s attacking system.
The Australian expects his wingers to have the ability to beat a man with pace or skill, be strong in transition and able to push high up the pitch to regain possession. Kulusevski ticks all these boxes, but he can also be more than that.
Last summer, the Swedish national team player told soccer.london that his favorite position is actually a more central one.
“That’s a very good question, I’ve thought about this all my life. I’ve always thought of myself as a No.10, I still think I am, but my best results as a footballer have always come as a right winger . , so I don’t know!” he said. “In the future we’ll see where I want to be. Yes, I can probably play wing-back too. It’s football, you want to help a good team, you want to play, enjoy, work hard and have fun.”
Kulusevski played well in the number 10 role towards the end of this season under Mason, showing that he can take the ball in both directions and with both feet to cause problems for the opposition, as well as thread passes through to others.
Postecoglou’s side play with either a 4-3-3 formation or a 4-2-3-1, making Kulusevski one of his most versatile weapons, as the Swede can play on the right of a front three or a three behind a striker as well as in the middle of the three behind the centre-forward.
The new coach’s midfield three features a number six pivot behind two attacking number eights who come from box to box and support the striker. Kulusevski’s tactical awareness and skills could also see him used in one of those attacking roles if Postecoglou looks to convert him.
There is excitement around Tottenham about how Kulusevski will flourish in whatever role Postecoglou uses him in, and that fee was a coup for a player nowhere near his peak.
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