Cristian Romero goes from rash to rock as he shines in Tottenham’s win at Luton Town – and proves why Lionel Messi thinks he’s the world’s best defender

Lionel Messi thinks Cristian Romero is the best defender in the world. ‘Good judge,’ said Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou when reminded of the compliment in the glow of his team’s gutsy win at Luton Town.

Spurs had just gone top and his centre halves deserved plenty of the credit. Micky van de Ven scored the only goal, early in the second half, and Romero shone, too, as the defensive unit flexed its biceps to protect the slender lead with 10 men after Yves Bissouma’s red card.

That has not always been the case. Romero arrived for £42million, a huge fee, from Atalanta but for all his obvious talent spent his first two years in London as if one reckless tackle from suspension or injury, while giving off strong vibes that he’d rather be playing for Argentina.

It has been a different story under Postecoglou from the moment early in the first game of the season at Brentford when he scored despite taking a blow to the head and pleaded to stay on when it was clear he had to come off. There is more composure and control to his football. It appears the decision to make him one of the team’s new vice-captains at the dawn of this new era seems to have had the desired effect.

‘Maybe,’ agreed Postecoglou, after Romero, 25, finished the game with the captain’s armband. ‘And maybe a bit of maturity. Working with him, he’s just an outstanding defender. Someone you definitely want in your team.

Cristian Romero shone in the heart of Tottenham’s defence during the win over Luton Town

Ange Postecoglou said the Argentinian was 'someone you definitely want in your team'

Ange Postecoglou said the Argentinian was ‘someone you definitely want in your team’

‘Yes, he does have that physicality about him. He’s a good player as well. His passing range, his ability to really position himself well, to stay calm and then just ridiculous bravery to put his body in there.’

Over the first eight games, Spurs have not looked anywhere near as fragile as they did in recent seasons when sitting deep with a packed defence and screening it with protective midfielders. It is reward for Postecoglou’s courage but they can guarantee rivals will search hard for weaknesses after the start they have made.


LUTON (4-4-2): Kaminski 7; Burke 6, Lockyer 7 (Barkley 81min), Andersen 6.5 (Mengi 59, 6), Doughty 7; Brown 6 (Berry 67, 6), Mpanzu 6 (Chong 67 6.5), Nakamba 7.5, Ogbene 7.5; Morris 6, Adebayo 6 (Woodrow 67, 5). 

Booked: Lockyer, Morris. 

Manager: Rob Edwards 7.

TOTTENHAM (4-3-3): Vicario 7; Porro 6, Romero 7.5, Van de Ven 8, Udogie 6 (Davies 82); Sarr 7, Bissouma 5, Maddison 7 (Skipp 76); Kulusevski 7.5 (Veliz 90), Son 6 (Royal 76), Richarlison 5 (Hojbjerg 46, 6). 

Scorer: Van de Ven 52. 

Booked: Bissouma, Hojbjerg. 

Sent off: Bissouma. 

Manager: Ange Psotecoglou 7.5.

Referee: John Brooks 6. 

Attendance: 10,929.