Tottenham will not only be delighted to have snared Radu Dragusin from Genoa so early in the transfer window – the fact they have beaten Bayern Munich to his signature makes it all the sweeter.
Bayern bought Tottenham’s all-time top goalscorer and arguably greatest ever player Harry Kane for £85m in August and a mini rivalry, at least between supporters of both clubs, has since been established. There will be plenty of Spurs fans and possibly those in the corridors of power at the club, that will see this Dragusin deal as a form of payback.
Ange Postecoglou made it clear that he wanted a new centre-back this month with injuries and suspensions to Micky van de Ven and Cristian Romero exposing Spurs’ lack of depth in that position, and Dragusin was quickly identified as a player of interest.
Personal terms with the 21-year-old were agreed last week before Spurs settled on a €30m (£26m) transfer fee with Genoa on Tuesday, with Djed Spence moving in the opposite direction on loan with an option to buy for €10m (£8.6m).
However, Bayern submitted a rival bid in an attempt to hijack the move. It threatened to be a double blow for Spurs, jeopardising Bayern’s move for Eric Dier at the same time.
On Wednesday morning, it was confirmed that Dragusin had chosen to move to north London over Munich and a variety of factors are said to have influenced his decision.
Emanuel Rosu, a Romanian journalist who reported on Bayern’s interest in the 21-year-old, tells i that Dragusin was “very tempted” by the Bundesliga club’s proposal which included a higher salary, but that he did not want to renege on his agreement with Spurs.
“He gave his word to Tottenham,” he says. “He was very eager to go to Tottenham before Bayern came in. Bayern only came in 48 hours before the transfer was sealed, it was a last-minute thing. They started initial talks, he was very, very tempted to go there. They offered him more money.
“Of course, Bayern is one of the gigantic clubs in Europe and they told him that they see him as an important part of their future. They told him things he liked hearing. He also gave them positive feedback and that’s why everyone close to him thought he would choose Bayern.”
“The word that he gave [to Spurs] was very important,” he adds. “He didn’t want to go back on his initial word to Tottenham.”
The pull of the Premier League also helped to sway Dragusin’s mind. According to his Romanian agent Florin Manea Dragusin has “dreamed of playing in the Premier League from a young age”.
It is thought that Dragusin will suit English football, given he is strong, combative, quick and good in the air. He has won more aerial duels than any other centre-back in Serie A this season and his style of play has drawn comparisons with Virgil van Dijk. Dragusin has spoken previously of his admiration for the Dutchman.
The prospect of more game time at Spurs was also crucial. “I think the decisive factor was he sees himself playing more and being more important right now than if he had chosen Bayern,” says Rosu. “He will need time to adapt but I think he sees his career evolving more naturally in north London than in Munich right now.”
That was important given Dragusin previously struggled to force his way into Juventus’ first-team after joining them from his homeland at the age of 16. Incidentally, Fabio Paratici, Spurs’ former managing director of football, held a similar role at Juventus when Dragusin joined in 2018.
Dragusin made only four competitive appearances for The Old Lady, before spending time on loan at Sampdoria, Salernitana and Genoa, who he joined permanently. He was concerned that a move to Bayern would put him “back to square one”.
Finally, there was the Postecoglou pull. Recent Spurs signings including James Maddison and Timo Werner have spoken about how enthused they were about joining the club after speaking to Postecoglou and hearing his vision for the future.
That appears to have worked in the club’s favour again.
“From his entourage, I gathered they spoke twice,” Rosu says. “Ange was very encouraging, explained his playing model. Radu liked a lot that the manager got involved.”
Dragusin’s arrival is timely ahead of Tottenham’s meeting with Manchester United on Sunday. There is a chance that the Romanian starts right away with Ben Davies expected to be out due to a hamstring injury and Dier out on loan in Munich.
He could partner Van de Ven, with the Dutchman back in training and fit enough for a place on the bench in last weekend’s FA Cup win over Burnley.
Romero may also be in contention as he steps up his recovery from a hamstring injury sustained in the win over Everton before Christmas. What has been a position of weakness for is gradually becoming one of strength.
Spurs have transformed their transfer strategy over the past few years with the majority of their recent signings proving to be successes. They have enjoyed shopping in Italy too with Guglielmo Vicario, Destiny Udogie, Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski all becoming key players after arriving from Serie A.
Postecoglou will hope that Dragusin can follow their lead as he plots a successful second half of the season.