Less than four months ago Hugo Lloris was parading the Jules Rimet Trophy around the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Captaining France to their second ever World Cup victory had cemented his status as one of the world’s elite goalkeepers and at 31 years old he looked to have many years at the top ahead of him.
If someone had suggested at the time that less than four months later his position as Tottenham’s number one would be under threat, few would have believed it. And if they’d also told you the man tipped to take his place only made his Premier League debut just over a year ago, eyebrows would have arched even higher.
Rumours that Burnley’s Nick Pope was a Tottenham transfer target began to surface about a week ago. With the January transfer window just a couple of months away, our friends at Football Whispers have taken a closer look at whether the 26-year-old Englishman could capitalise on Lloris’s post-World Cup hangover.
As is well known, Lloris’s ‘hangover’ has been more than metaphorical. In mid-September he was fined and banned from driving for being more than twice over the legal drink-drive limit. Combined with an early season injury that put him out of action for several weeks, and his generally shaky form since the World Cup, it amounts to the most challenging time of Lloris’s career.
That he remains a top class goalkeeper is in no doubt. What he occasionally lacks in concentration and command of his box he more than makes up for with almost superhuman reflexes. It’s often said that the mark of a great goalie is their ability to make saves that others wouldn’t. In that regard, Lloris can’t be questioned. His ability to play the sweeper role, speeding off his line to clean up passes played behind Tottenham’s high line, is also superb.
But equally, in no position is confidence more important than that of goalkeeper. And while his quickness off his line is undoubtedly one of Lloris’s best attributes, it only takes a little dent to become a hindrance– as we’ve seen twice this season, against Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League, when a rush of blood to the head cost his team heavily.
All hail Nick Pope
There are some valid reasons for Spurs to be after Nick Pope, but he’s not an obvious choice. Pope would count towards the Premier League’s homegrown quota and, despite providing much of the core of England’s successful World Cup squad, Tottenham are as close to falling foul of these rules as many other big clubs.
Pope was also part of that squad, making his international debut in a pre-tournament friendly against Costa Rica before watching from the bench as England put in their strongest World Cup showing since 1990. With Everton’s Jordan Pickford having a firm grip of England’s goalie gloves, it seems unlikely that Pope will be able to force his way beyond a bit-part role for the time being. But a move to one of the Premier League’s top clubs could help change that.
Certainly, Pope’s talents have been apparent for several years. Back in 2008, when he was just 16, his Bury Town Manager Richard Wilkins described Pope as “the most naturally-talented player” he’d seen, adding “I honestly think Nick Pope can go all the way to the top.” By November last year, just two months after making his Premier League debut, he’d already recorded more saves than anyone, his save percentage of 88.1 the best in the League, bettering even David De Gea’s.
However, this one star season is all the Premier League experience Pope has. With just 35 Premier League games under his belt, and no appearances since suffering a dislocated shoulder back in August, it would seem an odd change for Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino to make to his highly regarded squad.
So what do Spurs fans make of the rumours? Well, a recent Footballfancast.com poll found that 57% of supporters would like to see Pope replace Lloris between the sticks at White Hart Lane.
The figures show starkly how far Lloris’s stock has fallen among Tottenham fans, and give another reason for the Frenchman to be looking over his shoulder.
*odds subject to change