Ryan Sessegnon almost gatecrashed England’s 2018 World Cup squad and was Championship Player of the Season at just 17, but two years later he has been frozen out by Jose Mourinho, so what has happened to the Spurs outcast who had the world at his feet?
- Ryan Sessegnon enjoyed a record-breaking season at Fulham in 2017-18
- He became one of the most sought-after youngsters in English football
- But he floundered as Fulham were relegated after spending over £100million
- He moved to Tottenham to work with Mauricio Pochettino, who was then sacked
- Under Jose Mourinho he has failed to play since the Premier League restart
Football is a fickle beast. One minute you can be the flavour of the month, the next you are yesterday’s news.
At the moment it is 18-year-old Mason Greenwood who is flying on the crest of a wave after a spectacular breakthrough season at Manchester United.
Not long ago it was Ryan Sessegnon who was wowing crowds up and down the country and breaking all sorts of records on his way to helping Fulham back to the Premier League.
Ryan Sessegnon has not featured for Tottenham since the Premier League returned in June
He has struggled for consistent game time under Spurs manager Jose Mourinho
Though their return to the top flight ended in miserable relegation straight back down, Sessegnon showed enough promise to earn a £25million move to Tottenham.
At 19 he was desperate to take the next step in his career, and felt working with Mauricio Pochettino would help his progress.
But he would only make two appearances under his new manager before he was sacked after an underwhelming start to the campaign.
Jose Mourinho walked through the door promising ‘passion for my job and my club’. He layered on the charm offensive, as a former Chelsea manager he almost felt compelled to.
Prospects of young players always crops up when Mourinho walks into a new job, and he quickly moved to dispel any notion that he would be reluctant to place his trust in the club’s future.
Things looked on the up when Sessegnon scored for Spurs away at Bayern Munich last year
But the 20-year-old has started only eight times since the game at the Allianz Arena
He said shortly after arriving in November: ‘Every manager wants to play young players, everyone wants. So, if the potential is there, you are very happy to help the young guys develop.’
Sessegnon was handed his first start in a dead-rubber Champions League group game away at Bayern Munich, and rewarded his manager’s faith with a goal.
But he has started just eight times since, the last coming in Spurs’ humiliating last-16 mauling at the hands of RB Leipzig in March.
Since the Premier League’s restart following the coronavirus lockdown, Sessegnon has failed to feature at all. It has been a dramatic fall for a player, now 20, who had the world at his feet just a few years ago and was coveted by Europe’s elite at the age of 17.
Is he in danger of falling through the trap door after a nightmare first 12 months in north London? Barcelona were this week linked with a shock loan move for the out-of-favour winger, suggesting he still retains a number of admirers. He still has plenty of time left to make good on that early promise.
Sessegnon joined Spurs for £25million last summer in a bid to work with Mauricio Pochettino
But this is not the situation he, or anyone else, would’ve expected the wonderkid of English football to be in just two or three years ago.
There was interest from across Europe, from the likes of Manchester United and Bayern Munich, before Sessegnon signed his first professional deal at Fulham in the summer of 2017.
After 30 appearances that season he felt ready to kick on at Craven Cottage, and kick on he did.
By the end of a superlative 2017-18 season he had not just helped Fulham back into the Premier League, but he had enjoyed one of the outstanding seasons in Championship history. So good, in fact, that he became the first Championship player to be nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
He won an unprecedented five awards – Championship Player of the Season, Young Player of the Season, Apprentice of the Year, and named in the Team of the Season and EFL Club Developed XI.
Sessegnon flew onto the radar when he emerged for Fulham during the 2016-17 season
In his second full season he was inspirational in securing promotion to the Premier League
There was a late push for England’s World Cup squad, where he could have repeated Theo Walcott in earning a call-up despite having never played in the Premier League.
Gareth Southgate resisted those urges, but was already making plans to include Sessegnon in his post-World Cup selections.
But, amid a chaotic summer at Fulham where they spent over £100million on glamorous new arrivals, Sessengon almost became an afterthought.
He thrived in the Championship having been unleashed high up the pitch, but was moved back to left back with new star names filling in. It was that attacking role that saw him grab headlines and dominate the awards season, but that path was now blocked.
But that, it appears, is how Sessegnon prefers it. When referring to his best position earlier this summer, he admitted: ‘For me, I’d say left back or left wing back. In a formation of a 5-3-1, as a wing-back. Or if we play as a four, I’d play as a full back.’
Despite the departure of Danny Rose on loan in January, Mourinho has been reluctant to turn to Sessegnon. Ben Davies has started every game since the restart.
Sessegnon cleaned up at the 2018 Championship Player of the Year awards at the age of 17
Sessegnon’s form almost saw him gatecrash England’s squad for the 2018 World Cup
Full backs have become all the rage in England in recent seasons. You only have to look at Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, and even Pep Guardiola’s splurge on Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy back in 2017.
Rampaging, energetic full backs have become integral to modern football. Sessegnon appears to be tailor-made to be Spurs’ very own version, but has a manager who won’t embrace this current trend.
Mourinho appears reluctant to give him defensive responsibilities just yet. He said earlier this season: ‘I think Ryan is absolutely fantastic, I have known him since a kid in Fulham.
‘When he comes to the first team in the Premier League it is different to the Championship.
‘I think Ryan can play as a left back. Probably the left back in the last decade was Ashley Cole, in spite of him being from two enemy clubs, but he was fantastic.
‘I think in this moment he is a winger on the left, can also play on the right, can learn progressively and even developing physically, which he is doing.
‘Even last time I saw him and the first time I met him when I came here he is already different physically.
Sessegnon was powerless to stop Fulham going down after a chaotic season in the top flight
‘But Ryan has lots of similarities with Ashley, and he can learn how to defend. In the future I think he can be (a left back) but in this moment he is not ready to play as a left back.’
Sessegnon may have some bulking up to do if he is to prove his credentials in the Premier League. For now, with the left back berth seemingly blocked off his pathway to regular first-team action is obstructed by Son Heung-min and January acquisition Steven Bergwijn.
A loan move could do him good, but is no guarantee of success. Sessegnon has been an unfortunate victim of circumstance. He was anticipating years of fine-tuning under Pochettino, a manager many young players would be desperate to play under.
With Mourinho now between him and a first-team place, new surroundings may be the only way for him to make up for lost time, or risk becoming a footnote in the history books.
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