Tottenham’s long search for a centre-back continues — but Bologna star Takehiro Tomiyasu could be the answer.
Director of football Fabio Paratici is looking to raid his homeland to deliver the first signing of the Nuno Espirito Santo era and the Serie A defender reportedly tops his list.
But who is the Japan international and why are Spurs so eager to add him to their ranks?
An unconventional path to the top
Barcelona wanted to bring Tomiyasu to Spain as a youngster but the move was cancelled after his family were unable to relocate.
He was snapped up by Avispa Fukuoka, then of the J2 League, as an 11-year-old and deployed in midfield.
He was eventually shifted to centre-back and made his debut at just 17 after impressing in the youth team, coming off the bench to play as a defensive midfielder.
With European clubs beginning to sit up and take notice, the youngster joined Belgian side Sint-Truiden in January 2018 and was named the club’s Player of the Year in his first season.
Then Bologna came calling and the Serie A outfit parted with £7.7million in the summer of 2019 to make Tomiyasu only the second Japanese player to represent the club after Hidetoshi Nakata.
The 22-year-old has been a standout performer for Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side. So much so, in fact, that his rumoured £17m price tag is viewed by some as being on the low side for a player with his talent.
The perfect third centre-back
Nuno prefers to operate three at the back and it is easy to see why after the success he enjoyed with that system at Wolves.
He will likely use it again with Tottenham given the players he has at his disposal but the Portuguese tactician does not have many options at centre-back.
In Tomiyasu, he would be getting a versatile operator who can play right-back, in central defence or as a defensive midfielder.
Essentially, Nuno would have a player on his hands who can excel as the central defender in a three and also on the right.
The Bologna man’s ability to adapt to different tactical approaches and fill in where required could be particularly beneficial to Spurs.
A dominant force
Tomiyasu is an aggressive, proactive defender, regardless of where he starts.
Ranked against his fellow centre-backs, he is in the 80th percentile or higher for shot-creating actions (0.87), progressive passes (4.2) and dribbles completed (0.65) per 90 last season.
Defensively sound while also being progressive on the ball, you can see why Nuno reportedly wants to add the 23-cap international to his squad.
In short, Tomiyasu is a remarkably complete defender with a wide-ranging skill set.
A modern-day defender
Some clubs have overlapping centre-backs and others have underlapping full-backs.
Then there is Bologna with Tomiyasu — he is effectively a hybrid.
At times, he will carry the ball out from the back and into midfield.
The Fukuoka-born defender then looks for an incisive pass into feet, whether that is a short pass or a long ball forward.
But when deployed at full-back, he is a different player entirely.
Tomiyasu looks to play short passes into feet before bursting forward and offering himself as a passing option.
It is why he regularly finds himself in central positions despite starting off as a right-back, as well as being one of the reasons why his shot map below looks the way it does.
A bargain in a seller’s market
Heading into this transfer window, the rhetoric has been that selling clubs would have all of the power due to finances being impacted by the global pandemic.
Because of this, we have seen prices for in-demand players rise. The perfect example is Arsenal’s pending move for Brighton’s Ben White.
The England international is set to cost the Gunners £50m, while Liverpool are believed to be demanding £15m for Nat Phillips — despite the fact he has just 17 Premier League appearances to his name.
Tomiyasu is already an established international, has racked up more than 130 league appearances and is about as versatile as a defender can be.