Transfer Talk: Spence on Spurs' radar after pulling up trees at Forest
Tottenham are on the hunt for a new right wing-back and have made Djed Spence their top priority.
The Middlesbrough loanee enjoyed a breakout season at Nottingham Forest last term as the East Midlands outfit secured promotion to the Premier League.
And Spence is now set to leave Boro on a permanent basis, with Spurs emerging as the frontrunners for his signature.
We take a look at why Antonio Conte has his sights set on the England Under-21s international.
Spence was a relative unknown last summer when he was shipped out on loan to the City Ground from Middlesbrough.
There were rumours of a rift between the defender and Neil Warnock, with the Teessiders' former manager adding fuel to the fire in January.
He said: "I let him go. He needed to sort himself out, really. I basically said to him that you can go to the top or you can go non-league.
"I think [Nottingham Forest boss] Steve Cooper is the manager for him, to be honest. He has let him go forward more often, which suits his game."
Those comments did not go unnoticed — and Spence could not help but hit out at Warnock on social media after Forest's play-off final victory last month.
A season to remember
Spence's marauding runs down the touchline became a key feature of Cooper's potent attacking unit in 2021-22 as Forest scored the third-most goals (73) in the division.
The 21-year-old completed more dribbles (74) than any other defender in the Championship from 169 attempts.
He also made an impressive 43 key passes across the campaign — earning a place in the PFA Championship Team of the Season for his sensational displays.
The London native starred in all three of Forest's FA Cup clashes with Premier League sides, suggesting that he has what it takes to step up and perform consistently against top-quality opposition.
That was evident in the 1-0 third-round victory over Arsenal when Spence completed more dribbles (six) than any other player on the pitch.
Spence also ranked highly across various defensive metrics last season, consistently displaying his remarkable abilities in both boxes.
The wing-back made a total of 62 successful tackles in England's second tier, alongside 66 interceptions, and often started counter-attacks with his dynamism after winning the ball.
Though 2021-22 was only his third season of regular senior football, Spence was dribbled past just 20 times in league fixtures despite still being a relative youngster.
That will certainly delight Conte as the Italian tactician demands plenty of defensive organisation from his players.
Tottenham have already made three shrewd additions in the current transfer window, including the signing of Inter Milan left wing-back Ivan Perisic.
And Spurs are clearly keen to make an upgrade on the opposite flank too.
Emerson Royal is expected to depart the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this summer, while Matt Doherty has endured a largely disappointing two years in N17.
Spence looks to be the perfect fit for what Conte requires from his wing-backs — an astute defender first and foremost, as well as a devastating force when transitioning to attack.
Signing Spence would represent good business from the North London outfit as they bid to close the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City.
The wing-back will be handed plenty of game time due to Spurs' Champions League commitments — and can compete with Doherty as they challenge on four fronts.
He would qualify as a homegrown player, while it has been reported that a fee in the region of £20million would be enough to secure his services.
Tottenham's pursuit of Spence is yet to be sewn up — but it seems like a foregone conclusion that the wing-back will be a star in the Premier League next season.