There was a time in the not too distant past when Hugo Lloris was the first name down on the team sheet at Tottenham Hotspur.
The Frenchman, a World Cup winner and captain for club and country, deserved all of the plaudits coming his way.
Alongside David De Gea he was rightly being acclaimed as one of the best keepers in Europe, however, a drink-driving conviction has hit him hard, and it can’t be any coincidence that his form has suffered.
Rash decision making isn’t something normally associated with Lloris, but one only has to remind themselves of his headless chicken act against Barcelona with less than two minutes on the Wembley clock to know that all is not well.
There have been other on-pitch incidents too, and though he has begun to redress the balance, the damage has been done.
Spurs have been the ‘nearly men’ of the Premier League for years, and jokes about being ‘Spursy’ and having an empty trophy cabinet have dogged them for a while now.
Mauricio Pochettino can’t be happy that his team remain a figure of fun for the internet generation, but it’s true that they’re only 2-3 players away from being real challengers for all of the titles that are in play.
Players that can improve top-tier sides don’t come around very often, and when they do, arguably only the super-rich clubs can afford them.
To help take the Lilywhites to the next level, a replacement for Lloris certainly wouldn’t be out of the question, and Jan Oblak has appeared in the rear-view mirror.
The Slovenian has begun contract talks with Atletico Madrid but is known to be far from happy at how long they have taken to come to fruition.
A serial ‘Zamora’ winner for the Rojiblancos, given by Spanish publication, MARCA, for the goalkeeper that has let in the least amount of goals, Oblak has over 100 clean sheets for Atleti, which roughly translates to 57 percent of the games that he’s played for them.
A single goal victory is often good enough for Diego Simeone’s side, and that’s due in no small part to the custodian’s efforts.
The Madrid outfit will fight tooth and nail to keep him of course, but that’s something they really should’ve thought about before only opening contract talks when it appeared there was interest in the keeper from elsewhere.
Media speculation places Oblak at Manchester United, but that’s hard to believe with David De Gea in situ. Though the Spaniard’s own contract runs out in summer 2019, United can unilaterally extend it until 2020, and there’s no suggestion from either player or club that he will be leaving.
Continued under-par United showings could eventually push him towards the exit door, but that doesn’t appear to be on the agenda at this point.
With Liverpool having signed Alisson, Chelsea securing Kepa and Man City already happy with Ederson, some of the big teams in the division are well stocked in the goalkeeping department.
At a proposed €100m (£88m), Oblak would smash the world record for a goalkeeper, and Daniel Levy has never been known as a spend-thrift.
With the possibility of players (and even the manager) leaving if the squad isn’t upgraded, can the chairman really afford to turn down the possibility of purchasing the Slovenian?
After all, Levy’s shown with the ‘new’ White Hart Lane that he means business and wants to take Spurs to the next level.
Calm under pressure – unlike Lloris just lately – commanding in his area, positionally as good as you’ll find and a superb shot-stopper to rival De Gea, there isn’t really a weakness in Oblak’s game.
It’s worth dwelling on his high level of concentration too, a pre-requisite for an elite keeper. Lloris has been found seriously wanting in this area, but Oblak, despite not being involved in some games too often thanks to the defensive prowess of his backline, is always alert. That can’t be underplayed.
He would give the Spurs defence the confidence they need to concentrate on their own jobs without concerning themselves too much about what’s happening behind them.
Not having spent a single penny in the last transfer window, Spurs can’t legitimately argue that they don’t have the money, so the question is do they really have the ambition?