Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho has confirmed that club record signing Tanguy Ndombele asked not to be selected for the Boxing Day fixture against Brighton because he did not feel in the condition to play following an injury first half of the season.
Ndombele has only started once since Mourinho was appointed last month and the win over Brighton was the fourth of the last seven Premier League fixtures for which he hasn’t even been part of the matchday squad.
The 22-year-old’s exclusion was a major talking point prior to kick-off. But Mourinho has clarified that a fear of suffering a recurrence of ongoing injury problems led Ndombele to ask if he could sit it out. The player is not nursing an injury, however, and took part in post-game training.
“I cannot say that he is injured because in five minutes we start a training session that you could watch from the stands and he will be training normally,” Mourinho is quoted as saying by Sky Sports as he faced the media after the game.
“So, I cannot say he is injured. I can say that he told me he was not feeling in condition to play the game, not based on injury but on fears of previous injuries that he has had since the start of the season, two, three or four muscular injuries and the feeling of not being ready to start.”
Spurs won the game after goals from Harry Kane and Dele Alli in the second half cancelled out Brighton’s first half opener from Adam Webster.
In further comments published by BBC Sport, Mourinho described his team’s second half spirit as ‘fantastic’, especially coming off a home defeat to Chelsea in their previous game.
“We cannot lose two in a row, the work-rate was really brave,” he said. “I told the boys to focus on this game and to give every last piece of energy we have. I think when you lost a game it hurts. If you are not hurt then you are not committed.”