When DeAndre Yedlin made the move to Tottenham following the 2014 World Cup, everyone knew it was a calculated risk. Facing hearty competition at a club still trying to bully its way into England’s elite, Yedlin knew he may never be Tottenham quality, even if the club paid out a hefty transfer fee to acquire his services.
Two years later, Yedlin departs White Heart Lane with just a single appearance to his name, but the “calculated” part of that risk paid dividends by setting him up for success at a new home.
Newcastle United officially confirmed Yedlin as their latest signing on Wednesday, ending a transfer saga that saw Yedlin linked to everyone from Hull City to Trabzonspor. Although a step down in terms of league, Yedlin’s move should prove a step up in terms of development with an elite manager that is in full need of his services.
Rafael Benitez has won everything there is to win. The Spanish boss has claimed a Champions League crown and two Europa Leagues throughout his career, while relying on a rigid defensive structure along the way. His time at Real Madrid may have been tumultuous, but make no mistake: Benitez is a top manager, one that is as tactically prepared as any throughout the world game.
That tactical nuance should be a benefit to Yedlin, who still needs refining on the defensive end. Even the least educated of eyes can see Yedlin’s blistering speed and showstopping athleticism, but it’s the finer points of defending that prevent Yedlin from being a Premier League starter. The 23-year-old showed glimpses at this summer’s Copa America, but his reliance on his speed is a characteristic that still needs to be coached out of him. Yedlin’s ability to track back needs to be a Plan B, not a regular occurrence, if he hopes to ever beat out the Kyle Walkers of the world that kept him out of the Tottenham team.
Newcastle seems an ideal fit to provide that lesson. Following the departure of Daryl Janmaat, the club is in need of a right back. Yedlin provides Premier League experience from last year’s loan to rivals Sunderland, as well as familiarity with the pressure that comes with a legitimate battle. This year, Yedlin will push towards promotion, not against relegation, but the defender should know what to expect from the pressure-cooker that is the English league system.
The stress that will come in the next year is exactly why the move isn’t a step down. Yedlin should be playing regular minutes in matches that truly mean something throughout the entire 2016 season. Rather than constantly looking over his shoulder in a relegation fight, Yedlin joins a Newcastle team that enters as the hunters and, if all goes according to plan, Yedlin and Newcastle’s time in the Championship could be a short one. On the other side, a move to Hull City or Sunderland could have seen the opposite, as Yedlin could have easily found himself bounced to the Championship after this season. The move is a gamble on himself and his team, as the fullback’s path back to the Premier League with Newcastle may very well be more clear than Hull or Sunderland’s path towards staying.
But everything Yedlin is preparing for could not have happened without that initial move to Tottenham and all that followed. For the club, the acquisition of Yedlin was a resounding success. After just two years and very little investment, Yedlin moved on for a profit, sealing a nice bit of business for the club. They gave the fullback a shot and determined it wasn’t to be, while also making a bit of money on the side.
For Yedlin, the move earned him the title of “Premier League defender” to headline his resume. At just 23, Yedlin had eyes on him all over the world, and he parleyed those eyes into a move to one of the country’s most historic clubs. For both player and club, there’s a lot of work to be done, but the initial eye tests say that Yedlin’s move to Newcastle could be a push towards a bigger step for all involved.