Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho insists he would not swap Giovani Lo Celso for Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes or any other midfield player.

Fernandes revealed last year he had agreed to join Spurs but the north London club were unwilling to match Sporting CP's valuation and instead turned to Lo Celso.

The Portugal international went on to join Tottenham's Premier League rivals United in January and has proved good value for the reported £67million (€80m) spent to sign him.

He has been directly involved in eight goals in eight league outings, while Lo Celso - whose loan switch from Real Betis was made permanent in January - has yet to register a goal or assist.

Mourinho says he is not bothered Spurs missed out on Fernandes' signature during Mauricio Pochettino's time in charge, however, as he rates Lo Celso just as highly.

"I don't know anything about [an agreement], but if that is true, and if Giovani Lo Celso was the player that came to Spurs instead, then I would say I wouldn't change Giovani Lo Celso for any player," he told Sky Sports.

"[I wouldn't swap Lo Celso] for any player. It's not just for Bruno, but for any player."

Lo Celso struggled for minutes when Mourinho succeeded Pochettino in November but has since started 11 of Tottenham's last 15 matches in all competitions.

Mourinho has been pleased with the Argentina international's positive attitude and believes there is still plenty more to come from the £27m (€30m) signing.

"When I arrived I went in other directions and he did exactly what I love a player to do: 'I'm going to show you'," Mourinho said.

"[There was] no spoiled kid reactions, no crying, no moaning, no agents and family throwing messages to the press and to the social media. 

"It was just between him and me: I'm going to show you', and he showed me step-by-step.

"The way he was working every day, the way he was coming to matches, the way he was changing matches."

Mourinho added: "I remember the match against Liverpool: he was on the bench, he came on for the last half an hour and he changed the game. 

"The only thing that didn't happen was us changing the result because we were so unlucky, but he changed the game.

"When he had his first start: 'Goodbye, I give you no chance and this place is mine'. In this moment, what people can see from him is an injured player playing, or a player that during the week is not working like the others.

"He's working with lots of different conditions to try to play and to try to resist until the end of the season so what you see from Gio now is not the end product - he's a fantastic player for us."

Harry Kane will start for Tottenham against Manchester United in their first Premier League match following the coronavirus-enforced pause after recovering from a torn hamstring, Jose Mourinho has confirmed.

Kane, 26, suffered the injury in the 1-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year's Day, condemning him to a lengthy period on the sidelines.

Initially it was suggested he could potentially miss the rest of the season, but with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a three-months suspension to the Premier League season, Spurs' chief goal threat will be able to play a major role in their final nine matches of the campaign.

Moussa Sissoko (knee) and Son Heung-min (broken arm) also suffered serious injuries before the lockdown, but they too are ready to return.

When speaking about team news in a virtual news conference on Thursday, Mourinho said: "We have little things [injuries] but we are going to wait until tomorrow [Friday, before ruling them in or out].

"Of course [Japhet] Tanganga has a stress fracture for a few months now and of course he didn't recover during this period, and we have some little problems that we have to analyse before we make a decision.

"But the ones that had the surgeries, Kane, Son and Sissoko, these three they recovered and they are ready to play.

"Kane doesn't play football for more than six months, so again he is working extremely well. I can tell you no problem he is going to start the game.

"Does harry have 90, 80, 70, 60 minutes in him? Only the game will tell us that. Is Harry on his top form? For him, I don't know. It's been around six months without a football match, but he works extremely well. He is an amazing professional and he's going to start tomorrow."

Mourinho was less certain about Giovani Lo Celso's prospects, however, as the Argentina international sustained an injury just before the lockdown, and regulations prevented him getting the treatment he required.

"I consider Gio one of the victims of the rules and one of the victims of the protocols, because he was injured in the end of the period before coronavirus," Mourinho said.

"He was in very bad condition in the last three or four matches. He played for five or 10 minutes against Burnley, he wasn't ready for Leipzig.

"Because of the rules, his injury isn't one in need of surgery, it needed daily treatment and close contacts with physios and fitness coaches, but that was not possible for about two months, he was injured and he couldn't recover from it.

"So, when the training ground opened and he started treatment. It was not enough to have him 100 per cent fit - only in the past days was he training with the team.

"Available for tomorrow? Yes, I think so, but we will test if he is going to play 90 minutes, start the game or not. It was a difficult process for him."

The Friday clash at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could prove pivotal for both teams' Champions League aspirations.

Spurs, who are eighth, go into the match four points adrift of fifth-placed United, who will be looking to go level with fourth-place Chelsea, at least until Sunday, with a victory.

Frank Lampard slammed VAR as "not good enough" after Giovani Lo Celso avoided a red card for an awful challenge on Cesar Azpilicueta in Chelsea's win over Tottenham.

The Blues ran out 2-1 winners at Stamford Bridge, with goals from Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso before Antonio Rudiger put through his own net as Spurs threatened a scarcely deserved fightback.

But prior to Tottenham's goal, the visitors might have been reduced to 10 men as Lo Celso might have been dismissed after planting his studs into Azpilicueta's shin.

VAR assessed the incident and decided against a card, although it was reported the official concerned later backtracked on this opinion.

The failure to make the correct call at the time did little to improve the mood of head coach Lampard, who was furious with the challenge.

"It's not good enough. It's not good enough, I'm sorry," he told BT Sport. "It's two VARs now in two games [after two goals were disallowed in the defeat to Manchester United].

"It's harder to speak about it when you've lost because people are claiming you're just shouting, but maybe you need to shout, because that's not good enough.

"Everybody in the football world saw that that was a red. And it's too late, too late to do that. The game should be over [at 2-0].

"I hate to call for red cards, but when they're endangering... That's a leg-breaker of a tackle.

"You get VAR brought into the game to see it and give the right decision. I'm not saying anything about the referees on the spot - it's not easy  on the spot - VAR's here to clear those up. I'm not surprised they've put it right, but it's not good enough."

Opposite number Jose Mourinho had little to add, although he saw acknowledgement of mistakes from the officials as progress.

"I feel sorry that they don't admit [mistakes] more times, especially when things go against us," he said. "I don't want to speak about it [VAR]."

Lampard was rather more positive about Chelsea's application, suggesting they had set standards to take forward in terms of their intensity.

"The aggression in our game, the pressing off the ball, the work-rate [was aggressive]," he said. "We've been having a tough time at home for different reasons.

"And when you're having tough times, there's only one option, and that's to fight. Sometimes, fighting [when it is] difficult, hanging on in the last few minutes when you shouldn't have been, those are the moments.

"We have to bottle that up now, that feeling, understanding that needs to be our behaviour daily. The way we played today needs to be our daily behaviour in training and the games coming up."

Giovani Lo Celso has said he now feels completely comfortable at Tottenham following a bumpy introduction to the Premier League.

The Argentina international lost almost two months to a hip injury in the early part of his Spurs career and the manager who brought him in on loan from Real Betis, Mauricio Pochettino, was sacked in November.

Yet suggestions crafty left-footer Lo Celso might not fit under new boss Jose Mourinho have been quashed through a run of four consecutive starts.

Tottenham turned his temporary stay into a permanent, long-term contract on Tuesday, enabling the midfielder to look forward with optimism.

"Right now I'm really enjoying the moment of being at such a big club like Spurs," Lo Celso told the Guardian.

"In the beginning it wasn't so easy for me. I was coming to a new league, a new language, a new culture, and then I got injured shortly after arriving. But right now I couldn't feel better."

The 23-year-old's ability to unlock opposition defences became more valuable to Spurs when Christian Eriksen finally completed a long-rumoured move to Inter.

Lo Celso distanced himself from comparisons with the Danish playmaker and instead set his focus on beating Manchester City on Sunday.

"We know that it's going to be a really difficult match against a team with fantastic players who have been at the top of the game for the last few years," he said.

"But for us it's really important to win and to put a good performance out there and take home the three points.

"We're at a big club. We've got high expectations. We go out to win all our matches.

"Now, of course, we are coming up against a big opponent but we know we have all the weapons to hurt them and win the match."

Tottenham have completed the permanent signing of Giovani Lo Celso, who has signed a contract until 2025.

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho revealed on Saturday the club were poised to convert the 23-year-old's initial loan move from Real Betis into a full switch, saying the player's form had made it "an easy decision".

The move was completed on Tuesday, just as the sale of Christian Eriksen to Inter was officially confirmed.

"We are delighted to announce that we have exercised the option to convert the loan of Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis to a permanent transfer," read Tottenham's statement.

"Gio has signed a contract with the club until 2025.

"The midfielder has produced impressive performances after establishing himself in the team following a hip injury which restricted his playing time in the early part of his loan."

A superb individual run from Lo Celso helped to set up Spurs' goal as Son Heung-min struck in the 1-1 FA Cup fourth-round draw against Southampton, a game in which he also had a goal disallowed.

After the impressive performance, Mourinho had said: "It's not an obligation [to sign him], it's an option, but I think the boy is earning the decision. 

"He's making an easy decision for the club to execute the option. Incredible evolution since I arrived.

"Barely played a game [before I arrived], I think he played against Red Star Belgrade and with me it was a little bit difficult to come in the first few weeks.

"But he understood what we wanted. Good learner, good kid and I think by himself he made the decision that the club is going to execute the option. That's normal, he earned it."

Jose Mourinho says the form of Giovani Lo Celso is giving Tottenham "an easy decision" to sign him on a permanent basis.

A superb individual run from Lo Celso helped to set up Spurs' goal as Son Heung-min struck in the 1-1 FA Cup fourth-round draw against Southampton on Saturday.

The 23-year-old also had a goal disallowed and Mourinho is sure he has done enough to earn a permanent place at Spurs, having initially joined on a season-long loan from Real Betis, with an option to buy.

Mourinho said: "It's not an obligation, it's an option. I think the boy is earning the decision. 

"He's making an easy decision for the club to execute the option. Incredible evolution since I arrived.

"Barely played a game [before I arrived], I think he played against Red Star Belgrade and with me it was a little bit difficult to come in the first few weeks.

"But he understood what we wanted. Good learner, good kid and I think by himself he made the decision that the club is going to execute the option. That's normal, he earned it."

Son, meanwhile, has netted in back-to-back matches at a time where star striker Harry Kane is out injured.

Mourinho, whose side will now play an FA Cup replay against Saints, added of Son: "All of the attacking players need this happiness of scoring goals. 

"In the first half he had one easier than the goal he scored, facing the keeper the angle was good, the shot was good but for inches he missed. 

"It is a good goal, an important goal, so it is good for him.

"Playing a replay will affect [our mid-season break] a little bit. There is one more match we have to play. It is not a personal situation, Ralph Hasenhuttl was telling me the same, we don't need one more match. 

"But I think both me and him prefer to play again than to be out. No drama, let's go."

Tottenham pulled out of their recent slump to book an FA Cup fourth-round place with a 2-1 replay victory over Middlesbrough.

Jonathan Woodgate, the former Spurs defender, saw his team take the lead and battle to a 1-1 draw at the Riverside Stadium 10 days ago but they were the architects of their own downfall in north London.

Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela were the respective first-half beneficiaries of poor errors from Boro goalkeeper Tomas Mejias and captain Jonny Howson.

Jose Mourinho's men travel to Southampton in the round of 32, having lost the Premier League version of that fixture 1-0 on New Year's Day, despite Boro substitute George Saville setting up a grandstand finish.

Middlesbrough's hopes of an upset were severely compromised within two minutes when Mejias' loose pass was intercepted by Lo Celso, who capitalised with a composed finish into the bottom-left corner.

Davinson Sanchez overhit his own pass from the back and then lost his footing, allowing Lukas Nmecha to turn inside Japhet Tanganga and draw a fine save from Spurs goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

Boro were quickly made to regret not capitalising on that opening when Howson lost possession and Lamela eased beyond Paddy McNair and Dael Fry to double the Tottenham lead.

Lamela fizzed over on the turn midway through the first half before Spurs full-backs Ryan Sessegnon and Tanganga went close.

Middlesbrough attacks were becoming increasingly rare, although Ashley Fletcher – their goalscorer in the initial game – could have pulled one back when he headed Marvin Johnson's 44th-minute free-kick wide.

Sessegnon blazed an inviting Tanganga cross over from close range in the 51st minute but Spurs did little else to quicken the pulse for most of the second period.

Saville had a speculative effort deflected on to the roof of the net and Spurs did not heed the warning as he was allowed to advance and slot past Gazzaniga's apologetic dive to prompt a nervy finale.

 

What does it mean? Mourinho's men back to winning ways

Spurs were winless in four games since Boxing Day heading into Tuesday's match, with a serious hamstring injury to captain Harry Kane compounding their woes. It will take more than earning a fourth-round trip to St Mary's to restore the fleeting feelgood factor of Mourinho's first couple of weeks in charge, but this was a step in the right direction.

Lo Celso and Lamela sparkle

Injury has hindered Lo Celso's debut season at Spurs, much as fitness problems have frequently hindered his compatriot Lamela throughout his time in north London. The Argentina duo dazzled here and were responsible for most of Spurs' brightest moments. How Mourinho would love them to retain form and fitness.

Slack Sanchez gets away with it

Tottenham's aversion to clean sheets has been a notable feature of the Mourinho era. They have one in 14 matches now and Sanchez's frequent lackadaisical moments were enough to keep Boro interested.

What's next?

Spurs travel to in-form Watford in the Premier League on Saturday, while Middlesbrough are back in London to take on promotion-chasing Fulham in the Championship on Friday.

Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Christian Eriksen were all recalled to the Tottenham starting line-up for their trip to Norwich City.

Club-record signing Ndombele ruled himself out of contention against Brighton and Hove Albion on Boxing Day having told Spurs boss Jose Mourinho he was not physically prepared having only recently recovered from a groin injury.

However, on the day he celebrated his 23rd birthday, Ndombele was back in Mourinho's XI at Carrow Road, as were Lo Celso and Eriksen, both of whom came off the bench against the Seagulls.

Juan Foyth came in for Davinson Sanchez in defence, with Lucas Moura, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks the others to drop out.

Jose Mourinho is refusing to deal in hypotheticals with regards to the future of Tottenham star Christian Eriksen.

The attacking midfielder is out of contract at the end of the season and was linked with a move away in the previous transfer window but a deal failed to materialise.

Reports suggest Spurs are willing to listen to offers of £40million for Eriksen in January, half the amount Manchester United were supposedly quoted in the close season, with a switch to Italy or Spain thought to be his favoured destination.

However, Spurs boss Mourinho kept his cards close to his chest when asked what will happen with Eriksen next month.

"My feelings are until I have anything official rather than hypothetical, I will not comment," Mourinho said. 

"The only thing I can say is the player is a free agent at the end of the season. 

"Of course I've had a conversation with him, but I'm not sharing anything, from respect with the player."

Mourinho was also quizzed on the possibility of turning Giovani Lo Celso's loan move from Real Betis into a permanent deal.

The Argentina midfielder has made 10 appearances this term but only two of those were as part of the starting line-up, with injury problems having blighted his start to the campaign.

Mourinho has no doubts about Le Celso's quality, though conceded he is still getting to grips with life in England.

"I'm doing my work now to try to improve results and get the best out of the players," he added.

"Of course, Giovani is in Europe for a number of years, but France with PSG and then Spain, it's a completely different football world than it is in England.

"So many experienced players arrive in England and the click for them is not automatic. So a young guy like Giovani also needs his time to adapt to the Premier League.

"You could see, even with Mauricio [Pochettino], an Argentinian man like him, easy communication, surrounded by some boys who speak French, he speaks English, so even in those surroundings of support it's not like he arrives here and explodes immediately.

"But we know the good player he is, give him time to develop and we think he is going to be a good player for us."

Mauricio Pochettino warned his Tottenham players "it is only a small step" after they ended their barren away run with a 4-0 Champions League win at Red Star Belgrade.

Tottenham eased to all three points in Wednesday's clash thanks to a couple of goals from Son Heung-min and one apiece for Giovani Lo Celso and Christian Eriksen.

Victory for Tottenham was their first away from home since May 8, a run spanning nine matches in all competitions, and Pochettino wants his side to build on the three points.

"I think it was a great result away from home," he said at his post-match news conference. "We needed to have a game like this to recover our best feelings and give us confidence.

"The performance was very good in a very difficult place. I am so happy but we need to keep going. It is only a small step."

Tottenham became the first English side to win a Champions League match at Rajko Mitic Stadium, a year to the day since Liverpool suffered defeat there, making the victory all the more impressive in the eyes of Pochettino.

"We were preparing, very conscious of how Liverpool suffered here last year," he said. "We expected a very tough game and it was important to be aggressive and try to dominate and I thought our game in the opposition half was excellent. 

"There was also luck involved as we managed to score in the first half and they didn't."

Lo Celso opened the scoring for Tottenham in Belgrade on his full debut, while Tanguy Ndombele put in a good midfield shift and fellow newcomer Ryan Sessegnon continued his comeback from injury as a late substitute.

Pochettino was particularly pleased with the performance of Lo Celso, who had previously been restricted to six substitute appearances due to a hip injury.

"I think it was a very good display," he said. "Always it's difficult for a new player when he arrives, and after the team was very successful last season.

"He arrived at the end of the pre-season. The circumstances were that he was behind everyone, got injured with the national team and then it was about building his fitness and his confidence, and then waiting for the opportunity to be in the starting XI and feel the opportunity.

"I am happy because he is a very good player and his personality and character is great. Now he only needs time like Tanguy and Ryan. They are so young. 

"They arrive now to the team in difficult circumstances, not the best circumstances. That is why like I tell you always I don't expect too much, I am happy with that they provide to the team. They need time. I am happy with the players."

Second-placed Tottenham are four points better off than Red Star in Group B and can guarantee a place in the last 16 with victory at home to bottom side Olympiacos later this month.

Son Heung-min scored twice as Tottenham beat Red Star Belgrade 4-0 on Wednesday to end their barren away run and close in on a place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Tottenham kick-started their Group B campaign with a 5-0 triumph when the sides met in London two weeks ago and were again comfortable winners at Rajko Mitic Stadium on Wednesday.

Giovani Lo Celso's maiden goal for the club was added to by a second-half double from Son, who started for Tottenham just three days on from being left distraught by a challenge that preceded Andre Gomes' horrific injury in the 1-1 Premier League draw with Everton.

A late fourth was provided by Christian Eriksen as Tottenham won away for the first time since May 8 to move four points ahead of their opponents with two games to play.

Paulo Gazzaniga denied Milan Pavkov with his outstretched leg and that proved to be an important save as Tottenham were ahead 11 minutes later.

A crazy scramble saw Harry Kane's toe-poke hit the post, Son's follow up blocked on the line and Kane's next shot turned against the crossbar by Son from a few yards out, but Lo Celso controlled the loose ball and fired home.

Tottenham survived another scare before half-time as Gazzaniga tipped Rajiv van La Parra's drive onto the post and Davinson Sanchez inadvertently diverted the ball onto the crossbar in the ensuing melee.

However, Mauricio Pochettino's side soon took control of the match and added a third on the counter 12 minutes into the second half through Son's powerful strike past Milan Borjan at his near post.

Son, whose red card for the foul on Gomes last weekend was rescinded on Tuesday, doubled his personal tally three minutes later when turning in Danny Rose's cross from Tottenham’s left.

Eriksen rounded off the scoring five minutes from time, the substitute holding off his marker before beating Borjan with the aid of a deflection.

Mauricio Pochettino believes Dele Alli will recapture his best form but feels the "massive" pressure on the player is sometimes unfair.

The Tottenham attacking midfielder has been criticised for his performances during 2019, most recently by former Manchester United captain Roy Keane, who accused the England international of losing his "hunger".

Pochettino accepts Alli has not been playing at his best, but the Spurs manager has warned people not to expect too much from a player who is still in the early part of his career.

"We need to remember that Dele is so young and the demand, the pressure on him is massive," Pochettino told reporters on Friday. "Everyone expects big things: he's English, he's an international, but he's still 23 years old.

"He was fantastic, and of course he dropped a little bit in his performance, but we need to help and to back him, not to pay attention too much and try to improve and be strong again."

Pochettino's side head to Everton on Sunday having won only three of 13 matches in all competitions since they beat Aston Villa 3-1 on the opening day of the Premier League season.

They took an early lead against Liverpool last weekend but could not withstand the pressure from the leaders, eventually losing 2-1 to drop to 11th in the table.

However, Pochettino is calling for his players to be positive as they look to get their season back on track.

"It was an important week to recover feelings after a tough game against Liverpool," Pochettino said. "It was important again to create that atmosphere that you want. It's a situation that only we can fix, winning games.

"We need to be positive – that positivity makes us believe we can beat any team. At the moment, we struggle a little bit, we drop a lot in our confidence. The most important thing is how we're going to finish. It's not nice to see yourself in the middle of the table, but that is our reality and we need to accept it. If you do not accept reality, you're going to struggle.

"In our minds, we know very well we need time, to be strong, be solid, and start winning because that's going to be the best thing for us."

Giovani Lo Celso came on as a substitute against Liverpool and will hope for more minutes at Goodison Park as he continues to recover from a hip injury sustained on international duty in September.

The midfielder was called up to the Argentina squad for this month's matches against Brazil and Uruguay, and Pochettino admits he is "not happy" at the prospect of him being involved.

"In general, always managers want players at home," Pochettino said. "For him, it's going to be tough because, again, when he's nearly fit to start again, he needs to go away and changing the dynamic of the training session, something can happen.

"Being honest, I am not happy, but I accept [it] because I always defend the national team and I always back the decision of the national team. I was a player – I know how it feels to play for your flag. What can I do? Nothing, only to show or describe my feelings."

Ryan Sessegnon may also hope to be involved against Everton, having yet to feature since his move from Fulham, but Pochettino is wary of rushing him back from a long-term hamstring problem.

"We are assessing all the players. We'll see. We have training tomorrow and we travel to Liverpool. We'll see if he can be involved or not," the Tottenham manager said.

"I cannot say he is complete in the way that you'd say, 'OK, we can trust him to play 90 minutes', but we have a big squad and sometimes it's difficult to give the possibility. He has to work hard: he's still young, it was a big injury, but for sure he's going to have the possibility to play in the future."

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is back in Argentina's squad for next month's friendlies against Brazil and Uruguay after serving a three-month suspension.

Messi was banned by CONMEBOL in August and fined $50,000 for accusing the governing body of corruption following his side's semi-final loss to Brazil at the Copa America.

The 32-year-old has missed Argentina's past four matches - all friendlies - but is in line to make his return in November after being named in Lionel Scaloni's latest 26-man squad.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is also included for the first time since Argentina's 2-1 third-place play-off victory over Chile in the Copa America, while Tottenham midfielder Giovani Lo Celso returns after sitting out of this month's draw with Germany and victory over Ecuador.

There is still no place in the squad for Paris Saint-Germain's in-form striker Mauro Icardi, however, with his most recent cap coming against Mexico in November 2018.

Club team-mate Angel Di Maria, absent since the Copa America, is also missing again.

Argentina meet Brazil in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 15 and then travel to Tel Aviv, Israel, to face Uruguay three days later in the final international break of the calendar year.
 

Argentina squad in full:

Agustin Marchesin (Porto), Emiliano Martinez (Arsenal), Esteban Andrada (Boca Juniors), Juan Musso (Udinese); German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Juan Foyth (Tottenham), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Nehuen Perez (Famalicao), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Renzo Saravia (Porto), Walter Kannemann (Gremio); Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham), Guido Rodriguez (Club America), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla), Marcos Acuna (Sporting CP), Nicolas Dominguez (Velez Sarsfield), Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Rodrigo de Paul (Udinese); Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Lucas Alario (Bayer Leverkusen), Nicolas Gonzalez (Stuttgart), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City).

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