Rarely can a club have broken their transfer record with such little fanfare. When Davinson Sánchez arrived at Tottenham in August for a fee of up to £42m, most headlines simply noted that at last Spurs had bought someone, anyone, after a summer of inactivity. Three months later, however, and that fee now seems significant because it is starting to look like a bargain.
The 21-year-old Colombian centre‑half has taken to the upper echelons of club football with an ease as graceful as his running style. It was his Sánchez on Sánchez tackle that led to the free-kick which opened the scoring in last Saturday’s north London derby. But it was not a foul. Holding off the Chilean, Davinson reached his long leg around his opponent to scoop the ball away. He was Tottenham’s most composed defender on an unexpectedly torrid afternoon and carried that performance into midweek where he won his duel with Dortmund’s feted striker Pierre‑Emerick Aubameyang.
Sánchez combines imperious physicality with impeccable pace, but most striking is his composure. For someone so young, though the defender’s single previous season in European football was a marquee one at Ajax, he never seems ruffled. He is able to read a defensive situation effectively and choose the appropriate means to deal with it. His role model, one he acquired after involved YouTube study, is Franco Baresi. You can understand why.
Yes, he makes mistakes; Aubameyang ghosted behind him to turn Andriy Yarmolenko’s glorious backheel past Hugo Lloris for the opening goal on Tuesday. But he has not made many and his manager, Mauricio Pochettino, looked pleased at being finally able to wax lyrical about his acquisition.
“I am so happy with him,” Pochettino said before Saturday’s Premier League encounter with West Bromwich Albion. “He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old but he is more mature than that. In only a few months, he’s showing he can do a fantastic job for us.
“You see against Dortmund how many times he was with Aubameyang one v one. Or look against Swansea against Tammy Abraham, or Real Madrid against Cristiano Ronaldo. How many central defenders can play one v one and escape? How many players can be tight and press and think ‘If you run, I run’ because they are so confident in their running? Not many centre-backs in the world can do this. But we expect more from him. He’s one of the best today, but there is massive potential for him to improve.”
For his manager those areas of potential include, well, everything. “Tactical, physical condition, technique, every single aspect because he’s still very young,” Pochettino said. “He arrived late in the transfer market and with no proper pre-season because he was playing in the qualification for the national team in Colombia. He had no time to work with us. We need one month and a half or two months’ pre-season with him and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level.”
Sánchez’s career to this early point has been action-packed. He has made 16 appearances for Tottenham this season, and played 45 times for Ajax as they finished runners-up in the Dutch and Europa League. Before that, as a 19-year-old, he won the Copa Libertadores with his boyhood club Atlético Nacional of Medellin. That season he learned his trade as a defender having passed through the Nacional youth system in midfield.
Asked why Sánchez has adjusted to the rigours of the Premier and Champions League so quickly, Pochettino said: “Because he’s so clever, very humble and he’s very open to learn.
“He’s a player that when you tell him something his reaction is to be open and be critical with himself. That is a massive skill for a player, when he’s so open to improve”.
If Sánchez continues the progress he has made in each year of his career so far, Pochettino is confident his name will feature in many more headlines yet. “He has the opportunity to be one of the best centre-halves in the world.”
The Guardian Sport