The most important moment of Tottenham’s Asia trip did not come on the field in the raucous stadiums of Singapore and Shanghai during matches against Juventus and Manchester United.
Instead, it was in a quiet meeting room at the Chinese city’s magnificent Waldorf Astoria when the clearest indication of what lies ahead for this talented team was delivered.
In a rare public appearance to announce a club record £360m shirt sponsorship deal with AIA, chairman Daniel Levy hinted heavily that the fact that the financially draining stadium and training ground projects may finally give Mauricio Pochettino the funds needs to turn top-four finishes and Champions League runs into silverware.
New record signing Tanguy Ndombele was in action against Manchester United in Shanghai
Boss Mauricio Pochettino is now waiting to see how heavily he will be backed in the market
It will have been music to not only his manager’s ears but those of the club’s supporters. More than once on this tour, Pochettino has stated that he will be happy with the squad he is given.
It can be interpreted two ways. The first, is that these were the words of a relaxed manager safe in the knowledge that his boss will go out and get the players he feels he needs.
The second, is that this is a manager perplexed with the business completed so far who may well be getting an increasing feeling of déjà vu. Given Levy’s comments, the arrival of £65m Tanguy Ndombele and the stunning move for £80m Paulo Dybala – as reported here by Sportsmail – it may well be the former. We shall see.
Paulo Dybala could sign for Tottenham, who have made a bold approach for the Juventus man
As for the football, it is difficult to read too much into pre-season kickabouts. The aim is for miles in the legs without injuries and Spurs would appear to have succeeded on both fronts. After impressively seeing off Juventus 3-2 in Singapore they went down 2-1 to United here.
To be fair, their English rivals are further into their pre-season and, if he can in this stifling heat, Pochettino will lose no sleep over the defeat.
The trip did not get off to the best start when Hugo Lloris was sent home after picking up tonsillitis. Unfortunately his replacement, Paulo Gazzaniga, has at times looked like he could not catch a cold.
The back-up was beaten at his near post for Anthony Martial’s opener against United, may have done better for Angel Gomes’ winner and also looked shaky against Juventus, although he did save well from Fred earlier in the second-half. Tonsillitis put Eric Dier out for around a month. They will hope Lloris does not suffer the same fate.
Last week, Kieran Trippier departed for Atletico Madrid leaving the right-back spot seemingly up for grabs. Serge Aurier will fancy making it his own but may well face a challenge from Kyle Walker-Peters, who has been impressive. Toby Alderweireld, whose release clause runs out on Thursday night, captained the side on Saturday and got minutes again.
Tensions spilled over in the match after Moussa Sissoko stamped on United’s Daniel James
While new arrival Ndombele excelled against the Italians, he struggled to make an impact in Shanghai. Again, he will be better for the extra work, as will the man he refers to as his ‘big brother’, Moussa Sissoko.
The Frenchman looked rusty against United. Early on he gave the ball away to the electric Dan James and would have seen his error cost a goal had Anthony Martial not hit a post from the Welshman’s pass.
On 24 minutes, he did the rarest of things – almost sparking a fight in a friendly match when he appeared to stamp on James. At least it gave us the rare sight of Harry Kane threatening to rag doll any of a number of United players. Elsewhere in midfield, Pochettino will be pleased with Harry Winks.
The 23-year-old has been impressive in Asia, always playing with a poise, intelligence and maturity, while a 30-minute cameo from Christian Eriksen may suggest that his Spurs days may not be over. Kane and Heung-min Son – mobbed everywhere he went – will be key, as will Lucas Moura, whose three-touch control before putting Tottenham level with a deflected shot was a touch of beauty.
Daniel Levy says Tottenham have no obstacles to investing in the playing squad now
The infrastructure is in place with the new stadium for Spurs to push on to further success
But beyond that, attacking options appear to be a little thin. Spurs are understandably reluctant to speak on 17-year-old Troy Parrott and it may be too soon for the teenager to step up.
It certainly will be if Tottenham succeed in an audacious move for Paulo Dybala. The next few weeks are big. Ryan Sessegnon should arrive from Fulham. Dybala is an ambitious one, but would be an incredible show of strength and the clearest sign yet that Spurs are ready to move to the next level.
This is a maturing team with an incredible manager that, with a little depth, is close to greatness. Levy’s words have suggested it may get that soon.