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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

Tottenham fans, remember Nabil Bentaleb? He is now a leader on a revival mission after tough years

By Alessandro Schiavone at Stade de la Meinau, Strasbourg

Photo: Wikimedia commons

Strasbourg 2-1 Lille

Nabil Bentaleb couldn’t prevent Lille from slipping to a 2-1 defeat at Strasbourg in the final Ligue 1 game of 2023 as the hosts snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Yet despite the reversal, the ex-Spurs man did well. And he was in the thick of it from the off, creating openings from a deep-lying position and linking play whilst dropping deep or sideways. The last years of his once-promising career weren’t kind to him as groin, back, meniscus and hamstring injuries hampered his development. But that's history now, with Bentaleb looking like a man on a mission who's making up for lost time after things started off so well 10 years ago in north London before it all came to a halt.

And tonight he played with confidence, showing quality on the ball and putting his physicality to good use against the athletic hosts. On one occasion, he cut through Strasbourg’s midfield like a knife through butter which was reminiscent of the glimpses of leadership he displayed at Spurs when he first burst on to the scene in late 2013 before he packed his bags four summers later after falling out of favour as Pochettino was building a new-look Spurs side that would go on to reach the final of the Champions League three years on. Most Spurs fans know that the kid never lacked self-belief but watching him today suggests that he’s come a long way in leadership terms too. The way he spurred youngsters such as Yoro and AlexSandro after Lille took the lead through an Edon Zhegrova deflected shot proved just that. Pep talks, rallying cries…he was constantly in his teammates’ ears during the highs and lows. And true to his new status, he encouraged Gudmundsson telling him not to despair after the Swede sliced a shot over. Impressively, the Algerian’s tactical understanding of the game has gone up a level too. The man who once set up Harry Kane in the North London derby against Arsenal hasn’t lost his touch. The Algerian always has a passing option in mind before receiving the ball, not needing more than one touch so Lille can transition fast. He presses like a man possessed, blessed with a thunderous intensity and advanced strategic thinking head coach Ange Postecoglou demands from his own players. Incredibly, despite some knocks he also stayed on the pitch until the end. Just like proper leaders do. Bentaleb, the balancer and bouncer, can turn Lille from contenders to a Champions League team as his career is finally heading in the right direction again. Marvelled Spurs supporters witnessing his late revival must surely be wondering 'what if?'...


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