Mousa Dembele insists he never wanted to leave Tottenham – even when he found himself out of Mauricio Pochettino’s plans.
Dembele made 40 appearances for Spurs in the 2014-15 campaign but only managed 10 starts in the Premier League, with the majority of his outings coming from the substitutes’ bench.
Injuries, including a troublesome hip, have played their part, but at times it seemed the Belgian was simply deemed an unsuitable fit for Pochettino’s dynamic style of play.
This season, however, Dembele has found his groove, cementing his place in a more offensive role in Tottenham’s attacking three, scoring three goals in his last four matches.
It marks a remarkable turnaround for a player who said in March that his lack of game time had been “very disappointing” – but Dembele insists he never considered a transfer.
“Last year I played less so it is normal there are a lot of rumours. I told the club that they were not true,” Dembele said.
“Of course I want to be more important for the team and I want to play more. I am not someone who, if I am not playing like last year, that I want to go quickly. They understand this.
“But it has never been in my mind to leave the club. I am very happy here, Even last year when I was not playing I wanted to show I can play.
“I am not looking to leave Tottenham, I just want to be important for the team at the moment.”
Dembele’s hot streak has coincided with a similar run of form for Spurs, who are unbeaten in 11 league matches ahead of Sunday’s derby against West Ham.
Much credit has been given to the team’s young English contingent but there is a strong Belgian influence at White Hart Lane too, with Dembele, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Nacer Chadli all key members of the squad.
Belgium have risen to the top of the FIFA world rankings ahead of next summer’s European Championships and Dembele sees parallels between the progress at club and country.
“With Belgium we know we have a good team and that we have a lot of good players. We have confidence in our team, the same as we have at Tottenham,” Dembele said.
“You have an atmosphere at Tottenham like – ‘Okay, we are not scared of anyone’ – and we have the same feeling with the national team.
“Everywhere we go at Tottenham, we have a good feeling. Before in the past, it was not like this.
“It is nice to be around these kind of positive vibes. I couldn’t have imagined Belgium being number one in the world.”
Tottenham and West Ham sit on the same number of points, with Spurs only ahead on goal difference, and Pochettino’s men will be wary of the Hammers’ impressive list of away scalps this season, which already include Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City.
“They are playing very well and they are a bit like us,” Dembele said.
“They have a new manager. Some good players have come as well. So we have a lot of respect for them and we know in the past, it has never been easy against them.
“But we believe in ourselves. We are in a confident situation.”