It now appears as if Tottenham have won the race to sign Ben Davies and that Swansea’s 21 year-old left-back will be heading for London in the near future for a reported £10m.
So what are Spurs getting?
Davies doesn’t receive anything like the same attention as he would if he were English, and so subsequently there are some very vague descriptions of him doing the rounds online. Either he is just being rashly compared to Luke Shaw or evaluations of him are being predicated on statistics alone - that’s not really fair.
The Shaw comparison is understandable but it’s still a bit reductive. Manchester United have bought themselves a full-back who, more than likely, will end up playing further forward. Shaw is a very attack-orientated player who is at his best when crossing the halfway line with the ball at his feet. Louis Van Gaal hasn’t sanctioned a £30m transfer on a full-back, he’s green-lit a move for a player who he presumably imagines will one day be amongst the finest left-wingers in the country.
The same is not true of Ben Davies, he is a full-back and the position is his present and his future.
Swansea are supposedly asking only £10m for him, and in this time of vastly inflated transfer fees that seems to have created something of a red flag with Tottenham fans. Truthfully though, that price is reflective of that reality described above - left-backs are not that valuable and players like Davies, who do not have an attacking flourish to their game, are never going to command enormous, Luke Shaw-sized fees.
As you would expect with 21 year-old, he is not the finished product yet and he is still susceptible to poor judgement around his own box and he is liable to struggle against the very best wingers in the league. Part of becoming a good defender, however, is acquiring experience from poor performances and learning from errors, and that’s just something that Davies has to go through - but don’t mistake that naivety for anything more long-term, this player’s building blocks are very sound.
He’s good technically and his usage of the ball is typically very reliable, he is enormously impressive from an athletic and stamina viewpoint, and he’s very capable with the ball at his feet. If he moves to Tottenham in the coming days, then the club’s supporters will almost certainly notice his rough edges, but his potential will also be blindingly obvious and that £10m fee will seem like very good business.
The difference between him and, say, Danny Rose, is that Davies has a feel for the left-back position and a natural instinct within the role. He’s not a world-beater, he’s not going to shift thousands of replica shirts from the club shop, but over time he would become a very significant addition.
Rose, with all due respect, is just a player who has ended up at left-back because of his limitations in more advanced positions. That is not the case with Davies, because he is actually a defender.
In a world where Tottenham are not playing Champions League football and are also mindful of having to finance a new stadium, this is a solid transfer and one which should prove extremely successful.
Comparisons are nearly always foolish and they usually bite you, but Ben Davies can become to Tottenham what Pablo Zabaleta already is to Manchester City. They are not comparable yet, but Davies can grow into that type of full-back: reliable, balanced, and tactically intelligent - not flashy, not likely to be the inspiration for any YouTube videos, but someone who becomes incredibly valuable without anyone paying too much attention.