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It's hard to pin down exactly what certain players do in order to earn their reputation. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg is one of those.

Perhaps not to anyone of a Southampton persuasion, but certainly to those outside of St. Mary's, he's the sort of midfielder it's difficult to pigeon-hole.

According to reports, Daily Telegraph reports the North Londoners are ‘confident' of raising the money to sign Højbjerg.

With just 12 months left on his contract, the Saints have to decide whether to cash in this summer or risk losing Højbjerg for free.

For his part, Højbjerg has been fairly clear.

“I know what I want, the club knows it too. I want to play at an even higher level than I am currently,” he told Sport1. “The relationship between me and Southampton is fantastic.

“The club gave me the platform to grow. I’m not saying ‘goodbye’ and I’m focused on my club, but my goal is very clear: I want to win the Premier League and the Champions League.”

Saints coach Ralph Hasenhüttl warned Højbjerg he would be James Ward-Prowse succeeded him.

“No, he [Højbjerg] will not be captain,” Hasenhüttl confirmed ahead of the Premier League restart.

“We had an agreement, and [I] made clear that if you decide not to extend your contract, you will not be captain of this team.

“He knows that he is an important player for this club. I think we have found a good agreement.”

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg of Southampton celebrates after scoring against Brighton & Hove Albion

It appears inevitable Højbjerg will leave St. Mary's this summer. Southampton will reportedly demand £35million for the former Bayern Munich midfielder. But that hasn't put Spurs off.

José Mourinho has been famously unhappy with his midfield options. Club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele has bore the brunt of that. Mourinho was highly critical of the former Lyon midfielder following Spurs' 1-1 draw at Burnley in March.

“In the first half we didn't have a midfield,” Mourinho said.

“Of course I'm not speaking of (Oliver) Skipp because he's a kid of 19 who's played two hours in the last few days. I don't criticise him at all.

“But I'm not going to run away and I have to say he (Ndombele) has had enough time to come to a different level.”

Mourinho views Eric Dier as a central defender rather than midfielder while Harry Winks has been in and out of favour. Benfica loanee Gedson Fernandes has yet to have a run in the side. In fact, the only midfielder to impress under the Portuguese has been Giovani Lo Celso.

Højbjerg could be tailor-made for Mourinho. His best teams have always had a ball-winner in the middle of the park – think Claude Makélélé at Chelsea. Højbjerg is different but he does just that. The Dane averages 10.59 ball recoveries per 90. No-one in the Premier League has managed more this season.

When compared to midfielders who have played in at least 20 per cent of available minutes this season, Højbjerg ranks 15th for tackles (2.64 per 90). He is 19th for interceptions (1.54). Most impressively, only Paul Pogba betters him for possession regains in the middle third (5.96).

Stats and defensive actions for Southampton midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg.

The graphic above shows where Højbjerg undertakes his defensive actions; a broad area comprising much of the middle third of the field. His tireless work-rate and boundless energy enable him to cover lots of ground, breaking up play and winning possession back for Southampton.

In Hasenhüttl's intense, high-pressing 4-2-2-2 system, Højbjerg is the ideal player to sit in front of the back four. But he'll be asked to perform a different role if he joins Tottenham, who typically play 4-2-3-1 under Mourinho.

To that end, Højbjerg's passing will have to improve. His 77 per cent completion rate is underwhelming. Only 44.78 of the 76.22 he attempts per 90 reach a team-mate. That's more than any other Saints midfielder, however, his pass completion is lower than either Oriol Romeu (78.32 per cent) and Ward-Prowse (78.69 per cent).

The fact all three post sub-80 per cent completion figures suggest it's more to do with the team's style of play. This, after all, is a player who worked under Pep Guardiola at Bayern and was highly thought of by the Catalan.

Author Martí Perarnau, writing in Pep Confidential, said of Højbjerg. “Pep had heard good things about Højbjerg before coming to Bayern and it has taken just a couple of training sessions for him to fall in love with the player. Pep thinks he may have just found the Sergio Busquets of Bayern.”

Whatever the neutral reckons, if Guardiola and Mourinho rate you, you're clearly doing something right.


Premier League