At the end of 2016, Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was nominated for the Ballon d’Or. He was one of just two goalkeepers shortlisted, alongside Juventus and Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon. A year later, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino lauded his goalkeeper as “one of the best in the world” as his side snatched a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid in the Champions League.
But while Lloris has always been capable of the brilliant, he’s also always been capable of the terrible – never more so than in recent weeks. At 30 years old the French captain should be in his prime, but instead, he’s cost his side goals against Chelsea, Stoke and Manchester City and patience is wearing thin amongst Spurs fans.
Hugo Lloris Should Leave Spurs to Help Them Challenge
This season is Spurs’ ninth consecutive inside the top six of the Premier League but they haven’t won a single trophy in that time. They own some genuinely elite talent, but players like Lloris leaving Spurs would allow the club to upgrade and start competing properly.
Although Pochettino still thinks Lloris “is doing fantastic”, statistics can help disprove his faith. Out of every player in the Premier League, only Arsenal’s Cech (six) has made more mistakes leading to goals than Lloris this season – five, the same amount as his last two seasons combined. From the top seven teams in the Premier League, his save percentage of 67% is marginally lower than Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois (67.5%), but lagging off the pace of City’s Ederson (70.1%), Burnley’s Nick Pope (78.1%) and Manchester United’s David de Gea (80.2%).
A truly world-class goalkeeper can have an impact that goes far beyond numbers, however. Spurs’ Saturday night game against Manchester City at Wembley last week was a showcase of not only how Lloris’ form has slipped and how it’s costing them, but also a glimpse of the difference a genuine world-class goalkeeper makes.
Gabriel Jesus’ opener was not specifically Lloris’ fault, but he would have been disappointed not to save it nevertheless. Vincent Kompany’s pass travelled a very long way before Jesus latched onto it, and when the Brazilian did, Lloris was still backing off. He then made a late effort to close down the angle and was nowhere near set and ready to make a save when Jesus’ shot whizzed inches past his left foot – more than within reach for any goalkeeper, let alone a Premier League one.
He would have still been thinking about that concession just three minutes later when İlkay Gündoğan slid a pass towards the furthest corner of Lloris’ penalty area from just inside his own half (about 28.5 yards from the centre of his goal line). The Frenchman charged out of his goalmouth and lunged recklessly at Raheem Sterling – so recklessly, he was somehow outside of the box by the time he connected with the City player.
Whether it should have stood as penalty or not should really be down to VAR, but as it is, the call stayed with Jon Moss and his team, who adjudged it to be inside the area and awarded the spot kick.
If it wasn’t for Sterling’s stunning miss in the second half, we would be talking about another costly mistake from Lloris. He weakly deflected Kyle Walker’s low cross directly to Sterling in the middle of the penalty area and was helpless in recovery as the winger skipped past both him and Trippier before blasting his shot against Ben Davies on the line.
To be hyper-critical, for the third goal he pushed Jesus’ original shot straight back out to Sterling from close range, when he could have parried it wider.
The reason his performance against Manchester City game was so important to this narrative – more so than last night’s game against Brighton – is because Tottenham want to be competing with teams like the newly-crowned Premier League champions. Of course there are many reasons why Spurs haven’t challenged City for the title this season, but when you look at the difference that Lloris’ counterpart on Saturday night has made to his own side since replacing the hapless and luckless Claudio Bravo, it begins to make more sense.
Ederson may not quite have the reflexes of De Gea, nor the physical presence of Manuel Neuer, but he possesses an elite amount of exactly what Pep Guardiola bought him for – composure and confidence. Bravo flustered his defenders and gave hope to strikers, while Ederson slots passes between forwards that nullifies all pressure and sends his team forward. Against Crystal Palace on the last day of 2017, he calmly stood against the impressive Luka Milivojevic in the 92nd minute and saved the penalty that would have condemned City to a first defeat of the season. He has barely put a foot wrong this season and magnified how a world-class goalkeeper can elevate a team. Lloris does not have this and instead of developing with experience, appears to be shrinking and becoming more unreliable.
There are several options available to Pochettino should he chose to end Lloris’ tenure as Spurs’ number one. Samir Handanovic of Inter Milan would likely be open to a Premier League move, while the emergence of Nick Pope at Burnley means that Spurs could quite easily move in for Tom Heaton, who has been exceptional over the past few years. But if they are serious about becoming one of Europe’s elite, why not go all out for Gianluigi Donnarumma of AC Milan?
The premium would be high for a player of his age and potential, but he’s going to be one of the world’s top five goalkeepers for the next two decades. He made his Milan debut two years ago aged just 16 and has started every game since, racking up over 100 appearances. The Rossoneri are going to finish outside the top five in Serie A this season and Donnarumma will want to be playing in the Champions League sooner rather than later.
Hugo Lloris is a very good goalkeeper and has helped Spurs become European regulars. He’s no doubt a great professional, is probably a very good guy to have around the training complex, and every now and again will produce world-class moments. But if Spurs want to start lifting trophies instead of looking at them, Lloris leaving could be the best thing for everyone.