Davinson Sanchez drew plenty of plaudits for the increased consistency of his performances this season for Tottenham yet his future at the club could still be decided by the offers that arrive for him.
The Colombian has been at Spurs for almost half a decade now, having arrived in the summer of 2017 for a then club record £42m from Ajax. His first season in England brought instant success as the then 21-year-old, excelling alongside Jan Vertonghen in the absence of the injured Toby Alderweireld, with some big performances in the Champions League. Then manager Mauricio Pochettino claimed he could develop into one of the world’s best centre-backs.
“He’s so clever, he’s very humble and he’s very open to learn,” said the Argentine of Sanchez during that first campaign. “He’s a player when you tell him something his reaction is to be open and be critical with himself and that is a massive skill from a player. When he’s so open to improve, then the conditions are amazing to be one of the best centre- halves in the world.
“You saw against Borussia Dortmund how many times he was with Aubameyang one v one. I think not many centre-backs in the world can do this. Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham, how many times he was one v one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem, and against Cristiano Ronaldo. At 21 he showed he is so brave. He takes risks but he is not reckless. I am so happy with him. best today but has the potential to get even better.”
Sanchez’s second season was more mixed with an often changing centre-back partner alongside him with Vertonghen suffering injuries and the Colombian, known as ‘Patron’ – boss – around the club, found his development became more hit and miss in the Premier League. The defender had all the tools to be a top defender but issues with lapses in concentration ensured he became a scapegoat at times for the frustrated fans.
In Jose Mourinho’s first season at the club the Colombian was a near ever-present for a manager who had admitted targeting him in the Europa League final between Manchester United and Ajax, but in the Portuguese’s second campaign, Sanchez’s game time decreased in the Premier League and for the final months of 2020 he was not even being named in matchday squads as Alderweireld and Eric Dier started together with young defenders Joe Rodon or Japhet Tanganga on the bench.
That period coincided with Sanchez becoming a father to a son Salvador, with his wife Daniela that winter.
On the pitch, with the arrival of Cristian Romero last summer and a change in head coach to Nuno Espirito Santo, Sanchez was expected to leave the club but, despite interest from Bayern Munich, no offer arrived that was big enough to tempt Spurs into parting with the Colombian international.
With some issues over family members not being able to come to the UK while Colombia was a government-designated red-list country, Sanchez is believed to have been keen on a move to Spain, but one did not materialise. Instead he remained in north London and proved to be one of the standout players in the early months of the new manager’s tenure until a spell of quarantine after playing for Colombia interrupted his rhythm.
He then lost his place in the team before and after Antonio Conte‘s arrival but Romero’s serious hamstring injury gave him a chance back in the team and Sanchez took it, scoring twice, including a last-gasp 96th minute winner at Watford.
His form was consistent apart from when he had to fit uncomfortably into different roles to cover others, such as on the left in the defeat at Mura, or in a central playmaker role at times during Dier’s absence.
“Davinson, Patron, is improving a lot,” said Conte. “I know very well and he knows very well that defensively he has a lot of space for improvement. He’s good physically, he’s fast. He’s also good technically. He has the right characteristics to become a top defender but he has to work, work a lot, especially to be focused from start to end. This is the gap to him to become a top defender for him.”
When Romero returned from his injury, Sanchez was back out of the team but what impressed Conte was that the Colombian heeded his words. When he returned for the injured Argentinean again in the final three crucial games of the season, Sanchez was faultless as Spurs kept three clean sheets.
After the 3-0 victory against Arsenal, with Sanchez seamlessly stepping into the backline, Conte said: “I want to say that Patron Sanchez, he played his last game in the starting XI maybe two-and-a-half months ago and he worked a lot, he worked very well and to see him tonight have this performance makes me and my staff very happy.
“When you have these type of players like Sanchez and Joe Rodon, reliable players that whether they play or don’t play they stay and work very hard, the coach and the staff are very happy.”
Sanchez has proved himself to Conte and in a season when Spurs will need a big squad to compete in both the Premier League and Champions League, the Colombian with his experience of the big games could be an important squad member.
However, he will also know that he will not be first choice in the big matches when everybody is fit. Conte and Spurs’ managing director of football Fabio Paratici must weigh up their options if a tempting offer does arrive for the defender and he wants to leave.
Sanchez has two years remaining on the six-year contract he signed in 2018 but any replacement defender coming in would not be guaranteed to settle quickly into the Premier League with its pace and physicality and Conte wants to push on this season. There is no time for adaptation periods.
It’s set to be a summer of squad building at Tottenham but Davinson Sanchez might just be one face worth keeping around.