Tanguy Ndombele admits there were ‘difficult moments last season’ in his relationship with Spurs boss Jose Mourinho but insists ‘we’re now both trying our hardest to help the team’
- Tanguy Ndombele and Jose Mourinho appear to have settled disagreements
- The midfielder was criticised and left out of team by the Portuguese last season
- The Frenchman says they’ve left ‘difficult moments’ behind them this season
- The 23-year-old played in all league games this term and unbeaten in his starts
Even the best relationships do not always come easy. There’s arguments, there’s disagreements. They need work. But if you get through them, you can come out the other side stronger.
Tanguy Ndombele and Jose Mourinho appear to have done just that. And if they have managed it, anyone can.
‘I’ve got a good relationship with the coach,’ says Ndombele. ‘We speak together, we laugh together. And the more difficult moments last season we’ve left behind us. We’re now both trying our hardest to help the team.’
Tanguy Ndombele (L) says the ‘difficult moments’ with Jose Mourinho are now behind them
Of difficult moments, they have had their fair share. At one stage, there was a wonder whether Tottenham’s manager and their £54million record signing would ever be able to work together.
There was the time last season that Mourinho said Ndombele had ruled himself out of Tottenham’s game with Brighton. Or the time Ndombele ambled after Wolves midfielder Petro Neto with such little vigour that Mourinho could not help but laugh about it in his press conference. And the time Mourinho hauled off the midfielder at half-time against Burnley and then skewered him afterwards.
‘In the first half we didn’t have a midfield,’ Mourinho had said. ‘He has had enough time to come to a different level. A player with his potential has to give us more than he is giving.’
Mourinho has regularly used 23-year-old in his Spurs lineups this season, playing every game
No wonder Ndombele did not start a Premier League game after the restart. Speculation began to spread that Ndombele told Mourinho he never wanted to play under him. Bags packed, ready to slam the front door like at the end of an episode of Eastenders.
Now look. The 23-year-old has played in every league game this season and Spurs have won three and drawn one of his four starts. Mourinho even said he missed his record signing in their defeat to Royal Antwerp.
Much of Mourinho’s frustrations stemmed from Ndombele’s lack of effort and the effect it had on his fitness. Even the France international admits it’s his change of attitude that’s helped him win back his place.
‘I am working a bit differently now,’ he said. ‘I find myself working harder in training and in the matches. But above all I think I’ve just settled in better. It’s true that the last season was difficult for me – to change leagues like that, it isn’t easy. But now I feel like I’m really settling in better and I really hope that I’m on the right track for the future.’
The French midfielder admitted a change of attitude from last season has helped him
Ndombele is not alone when it comes to getting through difficult first seasons for Tottenham. His compatriot Moussa Sissoko suffered a similar tough start as a Spurs record signing after his arrival in 2016.
‘I wouldn’t say that Moussa helped me in terms of settling in my life here – that’s something I did by myself,’ said Ndombele. ‘But it’s true that he and Serge Aurier have helped an awful lot in terms of settling into the club. Last season they were always there for me when I was playing well or not so well, and that was really good for me.’
Ndombele’s industry in midfield has helped give his team-mates the freedom to express themselves further up the field. Two are doing it more than any in the Premier League.
Harry Kane and Heung-min Son already have 12 goals and 10 assists between them this season. The pair have combined for 29 Premier League – nine this season – and are now second behind only Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard for the most in the competition’s history.
Ndombele praised friendship of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min as reason for their fine form
‘That understanding comes naturally,’ says Ndombele. ‘They got on very well off the pitch. I wouldn’t say they always practice together at training. They’re strikers so they naturally play together. In matches they get on well too. They are both very technical players. As long as it’s good for the team and its bearing fruit then it’s great for us.’
And they still have Gareth Bale to come into the side once he returns to full fitness. An 18-minute cameo is all the Welshman has enjoyed in the Premier League since his arrival while a disappointing performance in the Europa League prompted Mourinho to reiterate that Bale is a different player to the one that left for Real Madrid seven years ago. Still, says Ndombele, his impact on the dressing room is already being felt.
‘I haven’t spoken an awful lot with him because my English still isn’t great,’ admitted Ndombele. ‘But you can see he’s a great guy and he’s trying to speak with everybody. It’s really helped for the team to have someone with his experience having played at Real Madrid and won three Champions Leagues like he has. It’s great to have him here and I hope he’s going to start really helping the team right away.’