Harry Winks feared the writing was on the wall when Tottenham started negotiating with Southampton to sign Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the summer.
Jose Mourinho hadn’t made the Dane his priority signing not to play him.
While Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele — big, strong, fast, powerful men both — were far closer to being identikit Mourinho players than Winks and Giovanni Lo Celso ever could be.
At 5ft 10in, Winks isn’t exactly vertically challenged.
But, like everyone else who has watched football played the Mourinho way since he first arrived in England in 2004, he knew the fact he wasn’t 6ft-plus and built like an outhouse could well make him the fall guy.
Winks was open to a move in the summer but ultimately the right offer didn’t materialise.
And despite starting Spurs’s first three Premier League games, he hasn’t been named in Mourinho’s first XI in the top flight since the last of those fixtures, a 1-1 draw with Newcastle.
Ndombele and Sissoko started either side of Hojbjerg in the 6-1 thumping of Manchester United at Old Trafford that followed the Toon’s visit.
A triumvirate which has been Mourinho’s preferred midfield ever since.
On England duty during the international break, Winks conceded ‘my situation is difficult at Tottenham at the moment’.
And what is obvious is that the 24-year-old has to be playing regular football if he wants to be part of Gareth Southgate’s squad for the Euros next summer given the level of midfield competition at the Three Lions boss’s disposal.
That will almost certainly mean a move in January — whether on loan or permanent — and for Winks you’d imagine the window cannot come soon enough.
So far, Leicester, Leeds and West Ham have been linked with moves for him but all would feel like a step down even if Leicester are still able to offer a potential top-four challenge and Europa League football by then.
Perhaps the best option for Winks would be a move abroad for six months with the game in Spain suited perfectly to his style.
His old Spurs team-mate Kieran Trippier has been reborn at Atletico Madrid and would no doubt highly recommend a move to La Liga.
Not only would Winks, who is of Spanish descent through his mother’s side of the family, benefit but England would, too, because even in half-a-season abroad he would come back a more rounded player.
He only needs to look at how quickly Jadon Sancho and, now, Jude Bellingham have blossomed in Germany to see the benefits of playing on the continent.
Leicester, Leeds and West Ham are all grand clubs but the working environment he has grown used to at Spurs, with their stunning training ground and stadium, could not be matched at any of those clubs.
Few clubs in Spain could do that, either, to be fair but at least it would feel like an adventure and a properly fresh start.
Which is exactly what Winks, who has been at Tottenham since he was a boy, needs right now.
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