Tanguy Ndombele believes Jose Mourinho’s reputation for playing mind games has helped transform his performances in a Tottenham shirt.
Spurs forked out €62 million (£55.45 million) for the Frenchman in the summer of 2019. But he initially struggled to show the form he displayed at Lyon.
And it appeared Mourinho just didn’t fancy the midfielder. That feeling was cemented when the Spurs boss substituted Ndombele at half-time against Burnley in March 2020 and later laid into him.
Tottenham were losing 1-0 at the time and Mourinho also hooked youngster Oliver Skipp.
“In the first half we didn’t have a midfield,” said Mourinho. “Of course I’m not speaking of Skipp, because he’s a kid of 19. I don’t criticise him at all. But I’m not going to run away. I have to say he [Ndombele] has had enough time to adapt to a different level.”
Ndombele didn’t get much of a look in when the Premier League resumed in June. But the French star has been transformed in the current campaign. And he’s become one of Tottenham’s best players this season.
The French have an expression ‘qui aime bien, châtie bien’. Roughly speaking, it means that if you love someone, you will also chastise them.
Tough love is another way of putting it and Ndombele acknowledges it’s an apt phrase for what happened to him with Mourinho.
“Well yeah that French expression stands,” he said. “We do say that about the way people are with each other.
“But sometimes the words can be too hard. Or too harsh. For me it created a war in my head. It was difficult to take. It was not enjoyable, but it was not unmerited criticism.
“Well, you can either try to blame others for any slips or errors, or try to laugh about it or brush it off. But you will always go on to reflect properly on what has been said, and take criticism on board.
“I can’t go in to the details [on what was said with the manager] but it is all good. We can talk openly, have a laugh together, sit down for a meal, no problems.”
Ndombele says Mourinho methods are valid
Ndombele says Mourinho‘s psychological tactics with players are justified.
“It’s an element of the game, to take criticism,” he said.
“You have to get up again. I am doing better this season on several fronts – primarily no injury. It’s also a question of understanding my team-mates better. Also I have got a strong grasp of what the coach wants. And that has all contributed to this positive frame of mind.
“Obviously the coach can be quite hard on people. But it’s important you take that message on board and try to find in it the positives and not be floored by the hardness of the message.
“Now it’s safe to say things are going very well and communications and we are all happy.”