Højbjerg Inks a 5-Year Deal With Tottenham
By now you’ve heard that Pierre Emile Højbjerg (PEH) will stand guard in front of the Tottenham back line for the next 5 seasons. Clad in a sleeve of traditional Danish tattoos, and an eerily familiar No. 5 (We miss you Jan!) – Højbjerg represents not only, that the painful rebuild Spurs fans were warned about is in full swing, but also a that the mentality of José’s tricky Lilywhites is starting to harden.
Great teams are built from a strong spine.
Harry up front, PEH in the Middle, the Toby/Dier/Sanchez combo at the back, and the EPL’s best shot stopping keeper in the form of Hugo Lloris in goal. PEH affords Spurs and Mourinho, the cover in front of the center-backs they have lacked since the departure of Mousa Dembele and the downfall of Victor Wanyama.
It’s probable that you will consume a bunch of Spurs content where the focus is on how this signing will unlock the potential of everyone from Winks, to N’Dombele, to Sissoko. And it will. Winks can finally evolve (or not) into the true box to box midfielder he hopes to become. Tanguy won’t be required to track back as far, thus saving his thimble-sized gas tank for the moments of pure brilliance we know he can produce.
Likely everyone in the squad will benefit from the addition of Højbjerg – but not just because of his cool Danish Hygge, or because of his uncanny intuition which led to him winning possession 325 times, (good enough for best in the Premier League) But because Højbjerg brings something to the changing room at No. 17 that some could argue lacked significantly in recent years – perspective.
Højbjerg took the final steps of his youth career and the first steps of his senior career at Bayern Munich. Often, he credits this time as paramount to his development as a man and a footballer. He got to benefit from the structure of one of the world’s greatest football clubs, (shocker the Germans are very organized). He got the confidence of playing in and around big games at a young age, (he played 100+ minutes out of position in a DFB-Pokal final and lifted the trophy at 17). Most importantly however, he got the benefit of taking it all for granted.
Training next to Toni Kroos and Xabi Alonso every day in practice was the norm for Højbjerg at Bayern, he knew no different. Rude awakenings came quickly when, as an impatient teenager, he engineered a loan away from Bayern to Augsburg, and again the following season to Schalke. Choosing to demand a move and double-down on his own ability, rather than leaning on the slower grooming system Bayern had in mind for him. If you ask him PEH will tell you it was not a mistake, though in retrospect he will also admit rashness during that time.
Many people can relate to this – I know I can. Scoffing in the face of coaches and mentors who clearly knew better, in order to fumble-fuck my way through a heap of unnecessary trouble, only to wind up at the same conclusion they told me initially. For Højbjerg that meant turning his back on the footballing institution that is Bayern Munich. Not to mention the fact that Pep Fucking Guardiola hand-picked the guy to be the star of the future for the German giants – though apparently forgot to tell PEH…
Regardless it took guts to bet on himself – the same kind of guts it took for a 16 year old Danish kid to move to another country, (Not common in Denmark) The same fortitude it took to clatter in to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Mandzukic every single day in training as a 16-18 year old kid.
It was this type of guile that propelled him through a very difficult transition from Bayern to the Premier League. His road on loan in Germany was hard – especially at Schalke where he recalls lacing his boots up for a game with low confidence in himself for the first time in his senior career. Fast-forward to the middle of his first season in England, and it was arguably his lowest point. Out of the national team and out of the team at Southampton – Lost.
For Højbjerg however, this was the turning point, a literal “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” moment. He set a goal from himself that he would get back into the side at St. Mary’s, he would get back into the Danish national team, and he would become club captain for the Saints – All of which Højbjerg accomplished in the span of Six months.
Højbjerg is tenacious yet cunning on the pitch. He plays with raw emotion and give 100% in all he does, but not in a rash way – He has learned from prior missteps and now recognizes the natural ebb and flow of a match like a wily veteran. Though still only 25, it is the perspective brought by past failures, growing pains, overcoming adversity, and a willingness to persevere, that makes PEH such an intriguing addition to a Spurs dressing room – Which has been crying out for selfless leadership in the middle of the park.
Make no mistake, Højbjerg is a signature signing. Though he is far from a 20-goal scorer, and certainly won\’t be blazing up and down the sidelines, matching anyone for pace. No, Højbjerg will simply always be there, vigilantly, where he should be. Like a stoic father knowing that sometimes, just being there is the important part, PEH relishes the role of making his teammates better – even sees it as his best quality.
As Højbjerg himself likes to say, he is the cement between the bricks – holding everything together.
***Much of this insight came from an incredible podcast called Ramble Meets from May 31, 2020.
The ToddFather is a regular contributor to Podspur and can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org or @TC_Coshow on twitter