You might not admire Daniel Levy, but have to chuckle at his consistency. Tottenham have just lost the north London derby, when the punditocracy was beginning to talk of the famed gap between the red and white sides of the rivalry growing in their direction, and drew disappointingly with West Brom at the weekend. There are a few rumbles in the fan base and some supporters have even questioned whether Mauricio Pochettino, one of the most progressive coaches in the game, is all that.
Levy is a master of communication and subterfuge well beyond the world of sport – famed for pulling off great deals. Fulham fans of course have bitter experience of how he snared Mousa Dembele at the last knockings of the 2012 transfer window and would, therefore, have eyed yesterday morning’s Telegraph report that Spurs had installed Ryan Sessegnon as their one number one target to replace the ‘fuming’ Danny Rose with great trepidation. Given the way the modern sports media works, it was soon blasting around cyperspace, social media and leading Sky Sports News, with a special package heading the hourly bulletin.
As ever, the substance behind the story is difficult to find. Levy and Spurs did their best to try and rattle Fulham earlier in the year, briefing to the same paper that they’d placed a £25m bid for Sessegnon, having been one of a host of leading clubs disappointed when one of the country’s most coveted young players signed his first professional contract with a Championship club. No formal offer was received by Fulham – this was merely a test balloon floated to see if whispers of teaming up with Tottenham and Pochettino could tempt the teenager away.
Sessegnon, who along with his twin brother Steven has been with Fulham since the age of eight, was mature enough to recognise that, whilst he could have easily swapped Motspur Park for a Premier League club in the summer off the back of his astonishing exploits during his breakthrough season in senior football, learning his craft at a club committed to providing the pathway through to the first team for their young starlets was best for his development. He’s been a regular in Slavisa Jokanovic’s side this season, starting at left back, and scored that sensational hat-trick at Sheffield United – which seems to have started off a new round of frenzied speculation.
Matt Law’s piece proclaims that Sessegnon is above Luke Shaw in Pochettino’s pecking order to replace Rose, who is apparently destined to join Manchester United in January. The report builds on the Mail’s revelation at the weekend that there’s no minimum release fee clause in the deal that Sessegnon signed over the summer, but adds that Fulham struggle to retain the youngster should they fail to reach the Premier League in May, which seems like a bold claim given that he was happy to sign on after the play-off heartbreak. Why might this link come now, at a time when Spurs are worried about being left behind in the league again? Could it be because Manchester United have been linked with a £35m move for Sessegnon in the new year?
Perhaps the most intriguing part comes at the end, where Law writes:
But Tottenham believe Pochettino’s record of bringing through talented English youngsters puts them in a strong position for Sessegnon’s signature.
Pochettino has undoubtedly cultivated the talents of Harry Kane, Dele Ali and Harry Winks in the past couple of years, but you don’t have to cast your mind back too far to see how Spurs’ jettisoned the careers of several English talents. Sessegnon could just ask the last local boy to come through the academy – a midfielder who played in all four divisions for the club, represented England at youth level, and enjoyed cult hero status with the fans.
Sean Davis had his head turned at the height of his powers and, after a standoff, swapped west London for White Hart Lane, whereupon his promising career failed to take off. The man who amassed 188 appearances for the Whites, scoring goals at Blackburn and at home to Sheffield Wednesday that ensured Fulham would return to the Premier League having been given his senior debut by Micky Adams as he was resurrecting the club in the bottom tier four years earlier, would tell Sessegnon to learn from his experience and stay put.
Fortunately, Fulham’s hottest property is a man whose maturity and intelligence belies his tender years. He has a genuine appreciation for the club that have given him and his Steven their chance to shine and clearly loves the affinity developing between him and the Fulham fans. That doesn’t mean to say we can book in his testimonial at Craven Cottage for 2026 but it might suggest that we are dealing with a different character to Moussa Dembele, who moved to Celtic for a nominal fee two years ago, having benefited from the Motspur Park finishing school or even Pat Roberts.
The best summation of Sessegnon’s career prospects came in this weekend’s Football League paper from Adam Virgo (pictured left), who advised Gareth Southgate to consider picking the Fulham prospect in his next England squad. That might be a little premature considering Sessegnon hasn’t even had an under-21 call-up yet, but if Southgate, who knows his history, wants to return from Russia with silverware next summer he will have to fast track a Fulham player into his plans at some point.