After securing the services of Clinton N’Jie from Olympique Lyonnais for a reported £12m fee, I decided to have a go at doing a Q&A with a lifelong Lyon fan and a close friend of mine – Ilyas Habib (@IlyasBadGones). Following Clinton’s departure from the seven times Ligue 1 champions and after wiping his tears off with a tissue (or ten), Ilyas has been kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions on Mauricio Pochettino’s latest recruitment – letting us know what we can expect from the Cameroon international.
Q: Before we get into any sort of depth regarding N’Jie, can you clear up how to pronounce his name? Is it N’Jee or N’Jiy?
A: You pronounce his name “N’Jee”, but in his home country (Cameroon) they pronounce it “N’yee”. Most preferably, “N’Jee” would be fine.
Q: First of all, I know that you’re a huge fan of him so you must be devastated to lose N’Jie.
A: Yes I’m a huge fan of Clinton. He has always been a hard working player. He was brought in to the team when he was just about an adolescent. I’m quite devastated to see him leave, I always saw him becoming a great player for us, unfortunately he’ll be doing what I hope he would do for us in Tottenham, and I wish him all the best for his career, which is looking bright already.
Q: How would you describe Clinton to Spurs fans who haven’t seen him play?
A: I would describe Clinton as a very quick player, versatile too because he can play on the right wing as well as the left and up top too. He still needs to improve his maturity in the game, sometimes he could get ahead of himself and be a little too greedy, but I’m sure he’ll improve on that. I met him once at a Lyon training session – he’s one of the kindest players you’ll find in the Premier League, that’s a certainty. He’s always smiling and always has the determination to silence his critics, something which he did last season by scoring in the big games.
Q: Can you see him fitting in at Spurs – and more significantly, in the most competive league in the world?
A: He’ll most likely find it difficult in his first season, considering the Premier League is such a tough and physical league. Clinton might have to improve on his strength a little bit because right now I think it’s fair to say he’s still quite small compared to the bigger players such as Matic or Yaya Touré or some of the Stoke City players.
I see him fitting in Spurs quite nicely. In fact, our youth products are usually really promising. In a few years, I think he’ll really be a key player for Spurs. Right now, using him in cup games would be ideal and bringing him on at a late stage of a game where his pace, assisting and goal scoring is at it’s deadliest best.
Q: One of Clinton’s biggest advantage is his pace and his quickness to get away from defenders. What does he bring to the team other than his speed?
A: Other than his speed, he brings a different system into the team. For Lyon, he can (used to, now, sadly) assist Lacazette in different ways, sometimes by running down the wing and picking him out with a cross, sometimes running past defenders and full backs and making short passes. His passing for a forward is very good and his crossing is superb. I’m sure he’ll assist Harry Kane a lot this season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him assisting or even scoring in the NLDs or in some of Spurs’ other big games as he did quite often for Lyon.
Q: We already know Clinton is really quick on the ball, but what would you say are his limitations?
A: Clinton’s limitations are factors such as vision – if he improves on that, he’ll be a top quality winger and a really good forward in general. A bit more maturity as already mentioned and a bit more confidence wouldn’t hurt either, but he’s still a young player, all these factors should be gained as time goes. He’s a really promising prospect.
Q: The last time Spurs done transfer business with Lyon, it involved a certain Hugo Lloris who is now the current Spurs captain and the first name on the Tottenham team sheet. Can you see N’Jie having a similar impact at Spurs – possibly not now, but in the space of the next 3/4 years?
A: If Clinton carries on working hard and carries on being determined, I can’t guarantee that he’ll be as vital as Lloris for Tottenham but I can assure you that in 3/4 years, if Spurs manage to help him and keep Kane as well, they’d make a lethal duo. New country, new culture and new style of football – I think N’Jie needs a bit of time to develop as he’s been with Lyon for all his career.
Q: When Tottenham were initially linked with N’Jie, I immidiately came to you and one of the first things I remember that you told me was that he’s a big game player. Can you elaborate on that?
A: N’Jie is still developing as a player. Factors such as finishing needs improving but this season he was superb in big games. Against PSG at Gerland – a massive game for the title – and with only a few appearances in Ligue 1, Lyon coach Hubert Fournier gave him a chance in the starting lineup alongside Nabil Fekir up front because Lacazette injured himself two weeks before. Clinton had to reply. And boy did he do that well! He scored a magnificent goal against PSG, unfortunately we ended up drawing 1-1 and eventually lost in our battle for the title to PSG come May.
Also, against St Étienne, in the biggest rivalry in France, the biggest game for our fans, when Lyon were still in the title race, with massive pressure on his shoulders and fans’ expectations as high as ever, he scored the opening goal and created the second goal. He was amazing that game.
He was also racially abused by Lyon “fans” at one point not very long ago for his poor performances at the beginning when Lyon were in crisis, but he replied really well to that too. Unacceptable behaviour, but he said “that’s football, I always see it on football pitches.” Shows his great character and great personality too, as well as being calm which often comes in handy in football in the modem day.
Q: Spurs play in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Chadli on the left, Eriksen in the hole, Lamela (usually) on the right and Kane up top. Where do you see Clinton fitting in?
A: At Lyon, Clinton played up top alongside Lacazette and with Fekir as a number 10, and sometimes when either Fekir or Lacazette were unavailable, he played up top with either Lacazette/Fekir and linked up really well. At Spurs, as they don’t play 4-4-2, I don’t see him kicking Kane out of the team at all, but I do see him being a really good super sub for him or starting games as a LW/RW if Chadli or Lamela are not performing or if they’re injured/suspended. Once N’Jie has his chance, I hope he takes it. Furthermore, if Spurs ever play two up top, him and Kane would be a really lethal and interesting duo.
Q: I follow Ligue 1 quite a lot (mainly because I know you support Lyon) and I happen to know that Lacazette and Fékir are Lyon’s brightest attacking threat. How far away would you say Clinton is from being as good as them?
A: Clinton has the potential to be better than Lacazette – which may sound controversial, but I genuinely believe this. This is because when Lacazette was at N’Jie’s age, early 20’s, Lyon were still a Champions League side. So it took Lacazette a bit of time than expected to develop into the Lyon team unlike Fekir and N’Jie who are almost the same age and are both potentially going to become world class in a few years. Today, he’s quite far from Fekir and Lacazette, Kane too. As he gets more time on the pitch, I’m certain he’ll be able to gain experience and one day hopefully reach their level. Today he might not be quite as good as them, but if he continues to work hard you never know what tomorrow could bring.
Q: And to finally conclude this Q&A, we as Spurs fans have seen players from abroad take at least a season (in some cases, even longer than that) to come into the Premier League and find their feet before beginning to perform to a satisfactory standard. Do you see N’Jie following a similar pattern or do you expect him to hit the ground running?
A: I expect N’Jie to hit the ground running a bit quicker than some of the other players from abroad. His life is already easier because he speaks good English. In his home country English was the first language there – communication shouldn’t be a huge problem.
In terms of ability, I think Clinton will find it quite difficult physically and the atmosphere will always be intense and pressurising as it very often is at White Hart Lane and understandably so, as most fans expect new signings to show just exactly why they’ve been brought in as soon as they put on the top, roll up their socks and walk onto that pitch – which is quite obviously a lot easier said than done. This season I see him making about 7-8 assists like last season for Lyon and I can also see him scoring something close to 10 goals if he gets a good amount of game time under his belt.
Spurs will enjoy his presence, unfortunately for us it means that his adventure with Lyon is already over. A lot of Lyon fans didn’t appreciate N’Jie, they will regret it at a point this season, I’m sure. I’m already regretting it, but if it means N’Jie will get good European experience and prove himself at a much more competitive league than Ligue 1, I wish him all the best because he deserves it.
He comes from the bottom, literally. From a poor village to playing for a famous English club like Tottenham Hotspur, a lot credit should be given to him. I hope Daniel Levy will not regret a single penny he spent on Clinton, I’m confident he’ll be worth even more in a few years than what Tottenham are paying for him now. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Clinton every success at Spurs – I will definitely keep a close eye on his progression.
End of Q&A.
I’d like to thank Ilyas for taking the time to answer these questions in this Q&A and for telling us Spurs fans what we can expect from our latest summer signing.
Welcome to Tottenham Hotspur, Clinton N’Jie. Here’s to many happy years at your new club.