Lewis Holtby the missing link for Spurs


As soon as Sunday’s Confederations Cup final between Brazil and Spain is finished, Paulinho will be bundled onto a plane bound for London to sign for Tottenham.

But while all eyes have been on Brazil, many will have missed the superb displays of another Tottenham player on the international stage this summer.

Lewis Holtby was handed the captain’s armband for Germany in the European Under-21 Championships, and the midfielder revelled in the extra responsibility.  

Playing in the role he made his own at Schalke, Holtby supported Germany’s forwards as he roamed freely between midfield and attack. His performance against the Netherlands, capped with a finely taken goal with his weaker right foot, was that of a fast-maturing attacking midfielder.

The tournament didn’t prove the most successful for Germany, who were eventually edged out of their group by Spain and the Netherlands, but Holtby was one of the competition’s outstanding performers and was named in UEFA’s team of the tournament. Alongside Spain’s Isco and Thiago Alcantara, there is no doubt the man from the Rhineland enhanced his reputation in Israel.

But Holtby has found that sort of positional freedom difficult to come by during his six months at Spurs. When his earlier-than-expected departure from Schalke was confirmed in January, Holtby signed off with an all-action display, inspiring Die Königsblauen to a 5-4 win over Hannover. He left the field late in the game to a standing ovation and with tears in his eyes. But that was not a one-off, with Holtby leading the attacking ambitions of one of the Bundesliga's finest sides.

Spurs fans, who I’m sure were impressed with what they saw when they tapped Holtby’s name into YouTube, are yet to see that side of the semi Englishman. While clearly a skilful, powerful and dynamic midfielder, there is a feeling that the 22-year-old is yet to impose himself at White Hart Lane. 

However, his abundance of talent is waiting to be unlocked if Andre Villas-Boas can find the right role for him. The Spurs coach plugged the hole left by Rafael van der Vaart with Gareth Bale for much of last season but, as magnificent as Bale was, the team never quite looked balanced without Bale marauding down the left wing and skinning right-backs at every opportunity. Indeed, Spurs have never adequately replaced Van der Vaart and Luka Modric, but they have ready-made replacements in Holtby and Paulinho.

Holtby established himself in Germany while on loan at Mainz, where he was used to devastating effect on the wings, mainly the left. But with Spurs well served in the wide areas, the “Van der Vaart role” is waiting to be filled by Holtby at Spurs. Holtby seemed too eager to impress when he was given the chance last season, with his best performances coming when injuries to Bale and Aaron Lennon allowed him some breathing space.

Holtby, along with Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Julian Draxler, is considered the future of Die Nationalmannschaft and his performances for Germany’s Under-21s prove that he is a player of superb talent.

Holtby will benefit from a full pre-season at Tottenham and will have a chance to impress during their pre-season tour of Asia. Every player has a breakthrough year and, providing he is used correctly, this will be Holtby’s time.

Read Michael Da Silva's previous columns here