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Jose Mourinho has cited his role in the development of Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay and Real Madrid center-back Raphael Varane as a way to defend his working record with young players.
The Tottenham Hotspur boss is often seen as a manager who values experience and big spend over youth and development. He was asked about his record in the latter areas and offered a provocative answer centered on McTominay’s rise this season, by Charlotte Duncker of the Manchester Evening News: “Yes, it is very important; Scott McTominay is only Manchester United’s best player. Raphael Varane is one of the best players in the world; yes, that’s a fair review. “
Sarcasm aside, Mourinho deserves credit for giving the midfielder his big break during his tenure at Old Trafford. Mourinho was sacked by the Red Devils in December 2018, but he had already made academy graduate McTominay an established member of the first team.
The Scotsman has since become an integral part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad, supporting a squad strong enough to recently beat Spurs Mourinho and Manchester City Pep Guardiola:
Mourinho also trusted Varane, who signed at the age of 18 with Los Blancos in 2011. The French defender quickly received a first-team call-up from Mourinho, who was in his second season as boss of the Real.
Yet despite the citation of two high-profile and recent examples, it is difficult for some to shake the feeling that giving youngsters a chance is far from a priority for Mourinho, even given the promising talents in Tottenham’s ranks. :
The idea of bringing academy graduates and other prospects into the fold will be more prevalent at Spurs. It’s a club with a stronger tradition of cheering on young talent than some of Mourinho’s other stops in a career that has also seen him to Chelsea, Porto and Inter Milan.
Mourinho has often favored a core of veterans during these years, bringing Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien to Real. Inter were defined by the experiences of Walter Samuel, Javier Zanetti, Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and Lucio when Mourinho took the club to the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2010.
Spurs have a similar combat-proven contingent in the form of center-backs Toby Alderweireld, 30, and Jan Vertonghen, 32. Meanwhile, left-back Danny Rose is 29, playmaker Christian Eriksen is 27 and Moussa is 30. Sissoko is still in midfield.
However, there are a lot of early stage players asking for playing time with Tottenham’s senior squad. Intriguing midfielder Harry Winks is still just 23 years old, while 19-year-old winger Ryan Sessegnon has yet to prove his worth since arriving from Fulham this summer.
Sessegnon, who suffered a long hamstring injury, said Mourinho told him how to improve, according to Football.London Alasadair Gold: “Really, he just made me sit down, told me to be myself, told me to be a little more vocal because I’m a pretty calm player and a general person. “
Developing Sessegnon, with teenage duo Oliver Skipp and Troy Parrott, should be a priority for Mourinho. The process will take time, but a draw against Bayern Munich in Group B of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League on Wednesday offered some a chance to impress:
Accelerating exceptional young people in the senior squad is a responsibility that Mourinho seems ready to accept, per Dan Kilpatrick of London Evening Standard: “It’s part of the DNA of the club, of the culture and also of the passion and the relationship between the fans and the team. “
Following those words would give Mourinho the chance to legitimize his credentials as a true team developer rather than just a supervisor of expensive teams. He will have to do so as relying on young players will certainly be a key part of Spurs’ future given the debt the club have faced since moving to a new stadium last season.