With the deal for Jean-Claude Todivo (OGC Nice) having collapsed, Tottenham Hotspur are now focusing on signing Romanian ‘handsome center back’ Radu Dragucin (Genoa).
“Tottenham’s deal for Jean-Claude Todibo has all but collapsed and talks are continuing with Genoa after reaching a personal agreement with Dragucin,” European soccer transfer market expert Fabrizio Romano reported on social media on Tuesday (Feb. 2).
With the winter transfer window having opened on January 1, Tottenham have made defensive reinforcements a priority. Current first-choice center back Micky Van der Vaart has been ruled out until January 2024 with a hamstring injury. Recently, vice-captain Christian Romero was also diagnosed with a hamstring injury that will keep him out for up to five weeks.
That leaves specialist center back Eric Dier on the bench, but Tottenham manager Anzhi Postecoglou doesn’t trust him. With both of his first-choice center backs out injured, he has moved fullbacks Ben Davies and Emerson Royal into the starting lineup, showing that he has no intention of playing Dyer.
With Tottenham short on center backs, the position has been a high priority for the club in the upcoming winter transfer window. Spurs recently held talks with France’s rising center back Jean-Claude Todibeau, making him a top priority.
The 1999-born French center back, who currently plays for Nice, was at the top of Spurs’ list of defensive targets. Standing at 6-foot-5 and possessing quick feet, Todivo has been a key part of the Nice defense, leading the club in fewest goals conceded this season with just nine in 17 league games.
His passing success rate is also very high, making him a center back with good feet. According to soccer statistics platform Footmob, Todibo has completed 90.7% of his passes in the league this season. His number of successful long passes is 58. This is in the top 7% of defenders in the same league.
Thanks to Todibo’s performance, Nice is in second place in Ligue 1 in 2023-24 (10 wins, 5 draws, 2 losses – 35 points), behind leader PSG (12 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss – 40 points), thanks to its solid defense.
Tottenham moved quickly to sign Todibo, who has been a standout performer this season, but they have faced a challenge as other clubs have also shown interest in the player. According to British publication TBR Football, Premier League rivals Manchester United have also expressed interest in Todibo, and the transfer fee for the player could reach £52 million ($85.6 billion) as the competition intensifies.
Another factor is that Todibo’s current club, Nice, is owned by Jim Ratcliffe, who recently acquired a 25% stake in United. It would be difficult for Nice to sell Todivo to United’s rival Tottenham.
“Tottenham have made a very specific approach and Todivo is keen on the Tottenham project, but Nice don’t want to sell him,” said French journalist Santi Auna of Foot Mercato on social media on January 1. “Chelsea started negotiations to sign Todivo in January, and Todivo is still on Manchester United’s list of potential signings.”
Spurs have been looking for a backup plan in case Todibo falls through, and the replacement they’ve settled on is Romanian 6-foot-3 “monster center back” Radu Dragusin.
Born in 2002, Dragucin is a 21-year-old defender who has been a key part of Genoa’s core center back line, starting all 17 Serie A matches this season.
A former Juventus youth product, Dragusin joined the then second-tier Serie B side on loan last summer before making the move permanent in January for a fee of €5.5 million. His four goals as a defender last season helped Genoa finish second in the league and earn promotion to the top flight.
Dragusin’s trademark is his ‘shaved head’. However, when he was playing for Juventus’ youth team, he was known for his handsome looks as he ran around the field with his hair untied.
Dragusin’s performance in the Bianconeri’s promotion campaign has continued in Serie A. In total, he played 20 games across all competitions this season, scoring one goal and providing one assist in 1,754 minutes of action. His strong physique allows him to dominate Serie A defenses, which is why he’s attracting interest from big clubs.
“Dragusin has won more aerial battles (53) than any other Serie A defender this season, and he has only conceded one dribble break so far,” football statistics outlet Squawka said on social media on March 30.
With his physicality, one-on-one marking, and set-piece prowess, many in Italy see him as the next big center back behind last season’s Serie A best defender, Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich).
Dragucin’s performances have drawn interest from Tottenham. “Tottenham are understood to want to sign a new center-back by next week,” Romano reported on March 30, adding, “They are talking to Jean-Claude Todivo, but if that doesn’t happen, Spurs have other plans.”
“Tottenham have now opened talks with Genoa for Radu Dragucin and could send an offer soon,” he added, “Postecoglou have also approved Dragucin.”
The pace of negotiations has been rapid since Tottenham boss Anze Postecoglou gave the green light to the signing of Dragucin. “As we revealed a few days ago, Tottenham are in talks with Genoa,” Romano reported on March 31, emphasizing that “Tottenham and Dragucin seem to have agreed on personal terms for a long-term contract.”
“Genoa want 30 million euros ($42.9 billion), Tottenham only want to spend around 25 million euros ($35.8 billion), and negotiations are ongoing,” he added, confirming that the transfer fee has entered the negotiation phase. The difference between the two clubs’ transfer fees is not huge, so it is likely that an agreement will be reached soon.
European transfer market expert and Italian journalist Niccolo Skira also said on social media on the 31st, “Dragucin is getting closer to Tottenham. They have already agreed on a five-year contract.” “Tottenham have offered €25 million for the player. Genoa have asked for €30 million in transfer fees, but Tottenham are confident of finalizing the deal.”
With Tottenham closing in on a deal for Dragucin, Romano went on to explain the progress of the deal once more. He reported that the deal for Todibo is effectively over as the deal for Dragucin is on track.
“It is understood that negotiations are ongoing between Tottenham and Genoa after the completion of a personal agreement with Dragucin,” Romano explained, “and as the contacts continue day by day, Spurs are confident of making progress.”
“The Jean-Claude Todibo deal hasn’t changed, it’s all but collapsed,” he added, suggesting that it is highly unlikely that Todibo’s move to Tottenham will happen in the January winter window.
With Spurs in need of a defender who can start immediately, it will be interesting to see if Romanian monster center back Dragucin can be Spurs fans’ New Year’s gift for 2024.
Tottenham will kick off the new year with a 2023-24 FA Cup third-round home tie against Burnley at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England, at 5:00 a.m. on January 6. After Burnley, Spurs will have a well-deserved break before hosting Manchester United in the 21st round of the league on Jan. 15.
If the deal is finalized early, it’s possible that Dragucin could start the game against Burnley in the cup and get to know his new teammates. Vander Penn is expected to return soon, but he hasn’t yet returned to training, so it’s crucial for him to get up to speed and settle in quickly.
If Dragucin is brought in quickly, Spurs could even start him against United after a short period of intensive training. It will be interesting to see how quickly Spurs can finalize the deal and introduce him to their fans.