13 players who did nothing at Spurs but thrived elsewhere: Paulinho, Capoue…

Quick Reads

Tottenham have had a high turnover of players in the Premier League era, despite their recent reluctance to dip into the transfer market, and there are a few who it seems left too soon.

Sometimes a player just won’t be a good fit for one club, while there are occasions where a change of scenery is just what they need to find a new lease on life. Other times, though, a club just makes a mistake by allowing them to leave.

We’ll leave it up to you to decide which category these 13 fit into. However, one thing’s for certain – all of them did far better after leaving Spurs than during their time in north London.

Pau López

If you blinked at any point during López’s spell at Tottenham, you’ll likely have missed it in its entirety.

The Spanish international goalkeeper, who also has a cap for Catalunya, joined on loan from Mauricio Pochettino’s former club Espanyol for the 2016-17 season but didn’t play a single competitive minute during his time in England.

He regained his starting spot upon retuning to La Liga, before making the switch to Real Betis in 2018. After just one year there, in which he kept more clean sheets than Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois, Roma paid €23.5million (£20.25million) to take him to Serie A.

Darren Bent

Bent didn’t have the worst time of it at White Hart Lane by most people’s standards, but his time there will forever be associated with one miss.

That chance, late on in a 1-1 draw with Portsmouth, prompted Harry Redknapp’s infamous claim that his wife could have scored it.

Bent netted twice in the next game, but the damage had been done. He left at the end of the season with a not-terrible 12 league goals. The next season, though, he scored double that for Sunderland.

In the nine seasons since, only seven players have scored more than his 24 in a 38-game campaign.


READ: The rise and fall of Darren Bent at Spurs: ‘The hardest two years of my life’

Federico Fazio

One of Pochettino’s first Spurs signings, Fazio never settled in North London and was loaned out to Sevilla and Roma before making a permanent move to the Italian outfit.

The Argentine played just 32 times for Tottenham, with lowlights including red cards against Manchester City and Asteras.

Things have gone much better in Italy, though, where he was part of the team that stunned Barcelona to reach the semi-finals of the 2017-18 Champions League.


Paulinho was meant to work out at Spurs. All the ingredients were there, but he never really recovered from a horrible game against Liverpool in which he saw red and André Villas-Boas lost his job as manager.

When he was sold at a loss to Guangzhou Evergrande in 2015, many Spurs fans were happy they got any of their money back, but the Brazilian has enjoyed a great resurgence since then.

Two Chinese titles were enough to earn him a £40million move to Barcelona in 2017, while the following summer saw him score for his country at the World Cup. He went back to Guangzhou after winning La Liga, and has been scoring for fun since his return.

Iago Falque

Another player who found his feet in Serie A after struggling in north London, Falque played just one league game in his Spurs spell after joining from Juventus as a 20-year-old.

The Spaniard wasted no time hitting his stride back in Italy, though, joining Genoa in 2014 and finishing his first season there as the club’s top scorer with 13 league goals.

After a slight hiccup in Rome, he joined Torino (initially on loan) and produced two double-figure seasons supporting Andrea Belotti. It turns out Spurs genuinely had an eye for talent after all.

Étienne Capoue

Capoue joined in the same window as Paulinho, after impressing at Toulouse, but got even less of a look-in.

The Frenchman made just 19 Premier League starts for the club, the last of them in a defeat at home to Stoke in November 2014, and moved to Watford the following summer.

The change of scenery has suited Capoue very well: he passed the 100-game threshold for the Hornets during the 2017-18 season and was a key part of the team which made last season’s FA Cup final.

Gylfi Sigurdsson

Sigurdsson was sold too early in Pochettino’s reign for the manager to have formed a real judgement about him, but the Spurs boss would later say the Icelander would have been perfect for him

After moving to Wales in a deal which saw Ben Davies join the London club, Sigurdsson – whose spell at Spurs had been nothing special but not as big a disappointment as some others on this list – became one of the best performers across the Swans’ entire Premier League spell.

He left Swansea for Everton in 2017 and, after a slow start, ended the 2018-19 campaign as the joint-highest-scoring midfielder in the Premier League with 13 goals.

Mounir El Hamdaoui

El Hamdaoui is another who was expected to kick on after joining Spurs as a youngster. In a way he did kick on, but he had to leave the club first.

After a hot 18 months with Excelsior, he moved to Tottenham with a view to, well, at least playing more than the 0 games he managed. A few years later, though, he tore through the Eredivisie with Louis van Gaal’s AZ as they won a shock title off the back of his 23 league goals.

Another 20-goal season followed the next year, while the one after saw him win a second Dutch title with Ajax, again finishing as his team’s top scorer. If only Spurs had been more patient.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is one of several former Spurs right-backs currently playing in the Premier League, along with the likes of Kyle Walker, DeAndre Yedlin and Ryan Fredericks, and given their current situation one wonders whether some fans regret letting him leave.

The academy product played just once for Tottenham in the Premier League, replacing Younes Kaboul for a 15-minute run-out on the final day of the 2011-12 season, eventually moving to Bournemouth in January 2014.

Smith (along with another former Spurs youngster, Charlie Daniels) helped the Cherries climb to the Premier League and has already played more than 100 top-flight games for Eddie Howe’s club.

Danny Murphy

Murphy was barely at Spurs, with his sole season so unmemorable you could be forgiven for not even noticing it had happened.

He started just seven league games, and his most notable goal – a 39-second strike against Portsmouth – was overshadowed by an almost admirable Didier Zokora dive in the same game.

He left for Fulham at the end of the season, proceeding to score the goal which kept the Cottagers in the Premier League and later playing his part in their run to the Europa League final.

Kevin-Prince Boateng 

Boateng was much sought-after when Spurs picked him up from Hertha Berlin in 2007, but the Berlin-born midfielder made just 10 starts for the club in all competitions.

A veteran of two World Cups with Ghana, Boateng has never settled in one place for too long but can certainly call his post-Spurs career a success.

His spell with AC Milan was probably the most productive time of his career, while he can also put a short loan stint at Barcelona on his CV.

Hélder Postiga

Remember when Tottenham fans were convinced Postiga would solve all their problems. Remember when they laughed years later when he stepped up to take a penalty for Portugal against England. Yeah, they were wrong twice.

Not only did the Portuguese striker fail horribly at Spurs, scoring just once in the league, but he missed out on Porto’s Champions League victory by moving to White Hart Lane for the 2003-04 season.

He never replicated the 13-goal season which brought him to England, but he did add another Portuguese title after returning to Porto. Then there’s the small matter of not one but two shoot-out goals against the Three Lions.

Bobby Zamora

Zamora famously scored just once for Spurs after hitting 70 in three seasons to help Brighton climb the league pyramid: that sole strike was an extra-time winner against West Ham in the League Cup, and he was used as a makeweight when manager David Pleat brought in Jermain Defoe from the same club.

He made his name as a scorer of important goals for West Ham, sending the club back into the Premier League in 2005 and notching two huge winners as the Hammers clung on to their top-flight status in 2006-07.

It even got better after that, with England caps and four knockout round goals at Fulham made the 2010 Europa League final. Of course, Defoe didn’t do too badly at Spurs in the meantime.

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