Tottenham cannot afford to off load midfielder Mousa Dembele this summer, despite reports that both the player and club have agreed that it is time to part ways.
Reports suggest that Dembele is one of the stars that Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino could sell in the summer in order to fund a squad rebuild ahead of the 2018/19. And there have also been claims that the 30-year-old midfielder is ready to move on from the north London side, with Premier League football becoming too physically demanding as he continues to face injury struggles.
But now is not the right time for the Belgium international to exit the doors at Spurs. Dembele has spent six seasons with the London club, making 236 appearances for the Lilywhites, and has been a vital figure in the middle of the park.
Spurs may feel that they can cash in on the 30-year-old, with only one year remaining on his current contract, but the maestro would leave a huge gap in the midfield. Despite injury struggles this term - an ankle problem restricting him to just 21 starts in the Premier League - Dembele was hugely influential in a season in which Pochettino's side secured a third consecutive year in the UEFA Champions League.
Last term, Dembele recorded a pass success rate of 92.3 percent, as the Belgian star received plaudits throughout Europe for his impressive performances. At times it seems he simply cannot be stopped by his opposition, as he uses his strength and control to hold off players.
His teammates have all named him as the best player in their squad, and his efforts last season led to Pochettino comparing him to Diego Maradona and Ronaldinho, while also labelling the midfielder as one of football's greatest talents. So three months later, why would you want to sell man with such explicit talent?
With Victor Wanyama also linked with a move away from the club, Spurs would really just be left with two stars to play that holding midfield role: Eric Dier and Harry Winks.
Winks has shown signs that he can fill that position next to Dier in the midfield. The boyhood Spurs fan impressed in his break through season in 2016/17, and had a strong start to the recently concluded campaign, starting five of the six Champions League group stage fixtures.
Winks most notably starred at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid, proving that he could in fact fill the boots of the injured Dembele, before a re-occurring ankle injury ended his season at the turn of the year.
The young midfielder has just signed a new contract with the north London club, committing his future to Spurs until at least 2023, and there is no doubt that Winks will be a star. But, whilst still recovering from his ankle injury and having faced a lengthy spell on the sidelines, he is not yet quite ready to take over from Dembele.
Spurs need to give the Belgium international one more year leading their midfield before they hand the reigns over to Winks. Despite suggestions that Dembele is struggling with the physical demands of the Premier League, there were no signs of that in his efforts last season. The midfielder still has a lot to give, and Winks can continue to develop alongside his fellow Spurs veteran.