I must admit to not knowing Luis Binks from the next England or Tottenham Hotspur talented youngster, but sources close to the English club have suggested this could be the best bit of business Olivier Renard has conducted yet as Sporting Director for Montreal Impact.
Of course the move needs to be confirmed first. Although here in the UK, on some English sites and twitter feeds, it’s a done deal. And it’s a transfer, not a loan.
I have match-going friends who travel to many Tottenham games, and while they too have not yet seen the youngster play, they’ve heard of his promise and expressed surprise the 18 year-old is about to jump ship. Even more surprised that it’s MLS.
Binks is the son of former Chatham United (English pyramid, 9/10th tier) part-time footballing favourite, Tom, and models his game, and it seems his hairstyle, on Tottenham’s Belgian international defender Toby Alderweireld.
He’s played 8 games this season for Tottenham u23 in Premier League 2, Division 1, and the same tally for the club’s u18’s in the u18 Premier League. He’s also made 4 appearances over the past two seasons against senior opposition in the English Football League Trophy which includes the u21 sides from Premier League clubs. Colchester United, Crawley Town and Gillingham (twice) provided the opposition. Three games were won, one lost.
It is ironic that two of Binks’ appearances at this level were against Gillingham, the Kent town where he grew up and the club he formerly held season-tickets for.
The youngster also played 6 times for England u18’s, the last appearance being in May last year when he inadvertently scored Spain’s goal in a 1-1 draw. Further progression followed, playing the full 90 minutes on his u19 national team debut, a 0-1 defeat to Germany last September.
So with all these seemingly great credentials why are Spurs letting Luis Binks go? Well, perhaps it’s not their choice. More and more young English players are broadening their horizons as they seek to develop their careers. For every Phil Foden breaking through at Manchester City or Dominic Calvert-Lewin at Everton, there’s multiple Jaden Sancho’s.
Sancho is the young Englishman who left Manchester City in 2017, signing for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga where he’s recently become the first-ever teenager to hit 25 goals. Arguably, and there’s a strong case for, his career has overtaken Foden’s, who preferred remaining in England.
Jonjoe Kenny (Everton to Schalke 04) is another, while Arsenal pair Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe moved to Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig respectively.
A former Tottenham team-mate of Binks’, central defender Noni Madeuke also jumped ship last year, signing for PSV Eindhoven where he’s appeared twice in the Eredivisie in 2019/20.
In an age where the English Premiership is flush with money and foreign stars there’s precious little room for young English players to break through. Less than one third of players in the Premier League are from the home nation. So youngsters are looking elsewhere to develop their careers. It’s fair to say there’s more than one route to the top these days.
So the mutual interest between Luis Binks and Montreal Impact is not so strange, nor is it the first time an English youngster has given up apparently glamorous soccer privileges to come to North America. Remember Jack Harrison at New York City FC?
After spending 7 years at the Manchester United Academy, at the tender age of 14, his family felt a move stateside would help Harrison develop his football career with greater opportunity. The alternative was staying in ultra-competitive England where these days, much tends to be about the here and now, rather than the future.
It’s hard to argue the strategy hasn’t paid off for the player. For although Manchester City signed Harrison just over two years ago and he’s yet to see the light of day in City’s Premier League team, he has been on-loan to Leeds United, becoming a regular in Marcelo Bielsa’s promotion-chasing championship side over the past two seasons. He’s also been capped by England at u21 level.
Of course like all transfers (and I must remind the Binks one hasn’t yet been confirmed), it’s never a certainty to work out. Every transaction bears a risk, and with an 18-year-old you are primarily buying potential.
If that potential can already transmit smoothly into an effective MLS centre-back then Renard will have pulled another one out of the hat. This is what the Belgian does. This is how he’s built his reputation.
Judgement remains in abeyance of course but some Tottenham sources describe Binks as a leader on the pitch. He’s left-sided with great timing and defensive abilities who pings accurate long passes to his flanks. He’s a ball-playing centre-back, that likes to emerge from defence carrying the ball (although we heard this about Rudy Camacho before he came from Belgium too).
Binks is all promise and potential for sure, but when you add the involvement of Renard’s visionary instinct, it sends the optimism needle that little bit higher. It’s all gut feel for this writer, but I feel he’s a player worth taking a punt on. Let’s hope Binks enjoys his time with the squad in Florida and each like what they see of each other.
The Impact can be doing with the central defensive reinforcement.