Spurs' Sanchez on track to be one of world's best centre-backs - Pochettino
LONDON -- Mauricio Pochettino has claimed there are "not many centre-backs in the world" who could play in his Tottenham back-three as well as Davinson Sanchez, but the Spurs manager says there is much more to come from the Colombian.
Sanchez is just 21 but he immediately adapted to Premier League and Champions League football after joining Spurs from Ajax for a club-record £36.5 million fee in August, starting all five European matches and missing just one league game, a defeat at Man United, since his debut.
He has usually played as the sweeper at the heart of Pochettino's three-man defence, as he did in the 2-1 win at Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, and his blistering pace makes him perfect for Tottenham's high-line.
Pochettino, himself a centre-back who moved to Europe from South America at a young age, believes there are few players on the planet who could perform the role as well as his summer signing.
"You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one vs. one," Pochettino said ahead of West Brom's visit to Wembley on Saturday, when Spurs will again be without Toby Alderweireld who is out until next year with a hamstring problem.
"How many central defenders can play one vs. one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running! I think not many centre-backs in the world can do this.
"Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?"
Shortly after Sanchez signed, Pochettino backed him to become one of the best defenders in the world, a claim he reiterated on Thursday, and he believes the centre-back is nowhere near fulfilling his potential, despite such a strong start at Spurs.
"We expect more from him but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well, he's only 21 years old but he shows more maturity [than that] and he's so aggressive when he's marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he's good, but I think he can improve," Pochettino said.
"There is massive scope to improve potentially, it's massive for him. In only a few months, he's showing he's doing fantastic job for us.
"[He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique," added Pochettino, who explained that Sanchez had not had any preseason at Tottenham after signing on Aug. 23 and leaving soon after for international duty.
"We need with him one-month-and-a-half or two months preseason every day, and then I'm sure he's going to show a different level. I think he's one of the best today but has potential to improve a lot more.
"Because he's so clever, and he's very humble, and he's very open to learn, he's a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he's so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best centre-halves in the world."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.