Destiny Udogie – Spurs’ Future Star Terrifying Serie A Defences by Shay Hicks
Name: Iyenoma Destiny Udogie
D.O.B: 20/11/2002 (20 years old)
Height: 188cm (6’2″)
Strong Foot: Left
Current Club: Udinese (on loan from Spurs)
Position: Left wing back, Left midfielder
Value: £18.00m (via Transfermarkt)
Destiny Udogie is a young wing-back currently impressing in the Serie A for Udinese. After breaking into the Udinese first team in 2022 with 37 appearances and 5 goals from left wing-back, Tottenham Hotspur made the decision to sign Udogie for £15 million. He was immediately loaned back to Udinese in order to carry on getting regular game time, but his recent performances suggest that he may have already been ready to break into the Spurs first team.
Born in Verona, Italy to Nigerian parents, Destiny started his youth career with a local club, joining the Hellas Verona youth setup from an early age and eventually working his way into some under-17 matchday squads in the 2017/18 season. He made his debut for the youth side in December 2017, although it would unfortunately be a bittersweet moment for Destiny, as his side lost 5-1 away to Atalanta. He would manage just 2 more minutes of game time that season, and only made the matchday squad 3 more times. However, things would go much better for Udogie on the international front, as he would make his debut for the Italian under-16 team. He started the game and played 80 minutes in a penalty loss to Albania in an International friendly in April of 2018. He would go on to make 2 more matchday squads for the youth side, including one start in a 4-1 win over Armenia.
The 2018/19 season would see much more success for Destiny, as he became a regular starter for the Verona under-17 squad and even make the Italian under-17 squad for both the European Championships and the World Cup. Domestically, Destiny enjoyed a fine run of form, scoring 5 goals and getting an assist. This form would carry over to his international performances as well, as Udogie would make his debut for the Italian under-17 side December 2018, playing the full match as his side lost 3-0 to France. His performances clearly impressed then-under-17 coach Carmine Nunziata (who Destiny is now playing for with the Italian under-20s), as he would become a key piece of the squad. Initially he would be used as a left back in the European Championships, before interestingly being moved to centre midfield for the World Cup. Destiny would display his maturity, intelligence and adaptability by transitioning well and performing in whichever role Nunziata asked of him, as he helped Italy to reach the final of the under-17 European Championships and the quarter-final of the under-17 World Cup. Whilst he would have liked to win the European Championship final and progress slightly further in the World Cup, Destiny had a number of marquee performances, including scoring and assisting a goal in a 2-1 win over Mexico in the group stages of the World Cup and most notably his 81st minute game-winning goal against France in the semi-finals of the European Championships.
Udogie’s form for Verona and his international exploits were more than enough for him to earn a place in the under-19 squad in the 2019/20 season. He would make 11 starts in the Primavera, scoring twice and assisting once. However, this would be overshadowed by Udogie and Verona’s performances in the Coppa Italia Primavera. Destiny would provide 1 goal and 3 assists in a run that saw Verona go all the way to the finals, where they would lose 1-0 to Fiorentina. He would also take a step up internationally, making his debuts for the under-18 and under-19 teams. He would even make his way into the squad for the under-19 European Championships, although he was unable to help his side to progress out of the group stages. Destiny would also earn his first professional contract with Verona halfway through the season, signing a 2 year contract in January.
All of Udogie’s hard work and consistent performances for club and country would finally pay off for him in the 2020/21 season. He was handed his first call-up to the senior squad in the first game of the season, being named as an unused substitute in a 3-0 win against Roma. Whilst his game time was initially limited, he was thought highly enough of to become a permanent member of the senior squad, and would make his debut 2 months later as a substitute in a 2-2 draw with Milan. Whilst Udogie was used extremely sporadically, only making 6 substitute appearances despite making 31 matchday squads, he was handed his first senior start for Verona in a 2-1 loss to Cagliari in the Coppa Italia. He was also given his debut for the Italy under-20 squad, playing 67 minutes in a 1-0 win over San Marino. Whilst he hadn’t attracted the eyes of many teams, he had impressed anyone who was paying attention, and this would lead to Udinese making a move to sign Udogie in the summer of 2021, initially on a season-long loan with a mandatory future fee of around £3.5m.
Even from the early stages of the 2021/22 season, it was clear to everyone in the Serie A that Udinese’s move for Udogie was one of the biggest bargains of the transfer window. Destiny would make his debut for Udinese in a league game against Juventus, where he managed 57 minutes before being subbed off in a 2-2 draw. He would make a late substitute appearance against Venezia the next week before missing the next 2 games through injury. Udogie would prove to be undeterred by the setback though, immediately forcing his way back into the side and becoming a starter for the rest of the season. Unlike his time with Verona and the Italian youth teams, Udogie would play almost exclusively as a left wing-back, something that undoubtedly helped his development over the course of the season. He would score his first professional goal in Feburary 2022 in a 1-1 draw with Milan, however the goal did come with some controversy as the vast majority of people believed it to be a clear hand-ball (Milan even went as far as uploading the game highlights onto their official YouTube channel with the title ‘Leão opens the scoring, Udogie replies’).
Destiny made sure not to give any reason to doubt his goal the following week in a 2-1 win over Sampdoria, reacting quickly to a scuffed shooting attempt from Gerard Deulofeu to calmly slot a shot past the goalkeeper. He would go on to score on 3 more occasions, finishing the season with 5 goals as well as 3 assists as he helped Udinese to achieve a mid-table finish in the Serie A. He would also make his debut for the Italy under-21 team, making 4 appearances in their efforts to qualify for the European Championships. Overall, Destiny had an amazing breakout season with Udinese, which was reflected by him being named on the 20-man shortlist for the 2022 European Golden Boy award. Udinese’s faith in Udogie’s upside had paid dividends rather quickly, with Italian sides Juventus and Internazionale showing their interest in the young wing-back in the summer of 2022. However, it would be Premier League side Tottenham that would secure his signature for a fee of £15m, with relatively new Spurs boss Antonio Conte looking to acquire more players that would fit his vision for the club in his first summer transfer window. Antonio was keen on Udogie due to his signature tactics, which heavily emphasize the importance of wing-backs. However, this was more of a signing for the long-term future, and the prescense of left wing-backs Ryan Sessegnon and fellow new signing Ivan Perišić lead to Spurs electing to send Destiny back to Udinese on a season-long loan for the 2022/23 season.
So far, Udogie’s final season with Udinese has seen him take another big step up, with him quickly racking up multiple goal contributions and causing panic in any opposing defender that lines up against him. It has been a volatile season for Udinese, which has seen them go from an early 4-0 win against Roma and a 3-1 victory against Inter Milan to a stretch of games between October and November which saw them pick up just 5 points from 7 matches. However, for the most part Destiny has provided the team with solid coverage across the left flank, showing his ability to carry the ball forwards at pace and create good chances in attack as well as his ability to recover the ball consistently in defense. It is easy to see why Spurs regarded the young Italian so highly, and whilst they are more concerned currently with their shortcomings at right wing-back, I believe Udogie will be more than capable of nailing down a starting role for Spurs and becoming the long-term first- choice left wing-back once he returns from his loan in the summer.
Notable dates in Destiny Udogie’s career:
10/12/2017 – Makes his Verona under-17 debut
20/4/2018 – Makes his Italy under-16 debut
14/10/2018 – Scores his first goal for Verona under-17
4/12/2018 – Makes his Italy under-17 debut
16/5/2019 – Scores his first goal for Italy under-17 at the European Championships
14/7/2019 – Makes his Italy under-19 debut at the European Championships
6/8/2019 – Makes his Italy under-18 debut
14/9/2019 – Makes his Verona under-19 debut
19/10/2019 – Scores his first goal for Verona under-19
1/11/2019 – Scores for Italy under-17 at the World Cup
28/1/2020 – Signs his first professional contract with Verona
8/11/2020 – Makes his senior debut for Verona
25/11/2020 – Makes his first senior start for Verona
6/6/2021 – Makes his Italy under-20 debut
15/7/2021 – Joins Udinese on a season-long loan
22/8/2021 – Makes his Udinese debut
3/9/2021 – Makes his Italy under-21 debut
25/2/2022 – Scores his first goal for Udinese
16/8/2022 – Signs for Spurs, loaned back to Udinese for the season
14/10/2022 – Makes the shortlist for the European Golden Boy 2022
Match analysis – Udinese vs Empoli, 4/1/2023:
– Much more comfortable offensively than defensively
– Could partially be blamed for the first goal, lapse in concentration/awareness lead to the Empoli attacker finding space in the box to receive a cross and score
– Calm and smooth dribbler in one-on-one scenarios
– Capable of routinely winning free kicks in good areas
– Would like to see him work harder, although this will likely be addressed by Conte once he returns to Spurs
– Likes to frequently drift forward into the attack when his team is in possession, almost going as far forward as the strikers on occasion
– Very good at using his dribbling ability to beat his man and find space to cross the ball into the box
– Whilst he does drift out of position defensively, he can compensate by using his pace to get back and pressure his opposite man
– Was a handful for the defense, tended to dribble as far as the byline and cross the ball late
– Showed his effectiveness from crossing areas, particularly with his low, driven crosses
– Would prefer to see him cut inside slightly more often, as he posed a reasonable threat the few times that he did
– Displayed the ability to engineer chances out of nothing by carrying the ball forward and making the right passes in the final third
– Made a great run into space and played a smart pass across the box to assist Udinese’s equalizing goal
Destiny’s first highlight of the match shows his willingness to get forward and cause problems for the defence. Here, he receives a switch ball from the opposing flank and immediately bombs forward. Recognising the space in front of him and the isolated defender marking him, he takes a heavy touch past him and wins a free kick for his team in a dangerous area.
This moment is a great example of something Destiny excels with, as well as something that I have an issue with. Here, he collects the ball deep in his own half and carries the ball forward before playing a short pass. Destiny wants to continue progressing the ball forward and attack, so he immediately carries his run on past the player who received the ball and into the attacking third. However, the player instead elects to play conservatively, passing the ball backwards to retain possession. The issue here is that Destiny’s mentality doesn’t match that of the other players, and he ends up stranded as high up the pitch as the main attackers. This would also leave a large space for Empoli to attack into in transition if they decided to press Udinese harder and win the ball back.
Here, Destiny plays a quick one-two with another Udinese attacker, and finds himself in some space on the corner of the box with the ball at his feet. Some players would elect to swing the ball into the box whilst they have the space, as there are 4 Udinese attackers in a small vicinity of each other who could all make an attempt at goal. However, in this instance Destiny prefers to drive to the byline, resisting pressure from 2 Empoli defenders before playing a driven yet accurate low cross into the box. He does well to pick out an open man, but unfortunately his first-time shot floats over the bar.
Destiny’s assist showcases some of the qualities that would make him a brilliant player in Antonio Conte’s system at Spurs. Firstly, he recognises the huge amount of space in front of him and makes a darting run forward to receive the ball. Instead of holding on to the ball like he usually would, he looks up straight away and plays another accurate low-driven cross into the area, and this time the cross is neatly tucked away for an equalizing goal.
Destiny has built up a reputation as a huge attacking threat among Serie A defenders over the last 2 years, and with moments like this it is easy to see why. Destiny receives the ball deep in his own half, and with Udinese chasing a winning goal, he elects to carry the ball forward himself. His sheer pace and dribbling quality leads him to shrug off the first oncoming defender before being fouled by the second-closest man. In short, Destiny turned possession in his own half into another free-kick in a dangerous area with one near-effortless 50-yard run.
Udogie’s performance in this game highlighted both what I love about his game as well as the things that frustrate me. There is absolutely nothing I can question about his game offensively, as he was a handful for Empoli defenders all night. He is a fast, silky dribbler that is capable of beating his man regularly and he is a threat from crossing areas. However, the defensive side of his game troubles me. Whilst he can recover easily due to his pace and wins the majority of his tackles, his positioning and work-rate could definitely be better. He wasn’t completely to blame for Empoli’s goal, but he would’ve been able to at least contest the shot if his positioning and focus was better. Overall though, Udogie had a great game and showed exactly why he could be a key player for Spurs next season. He has all the traits that are crucial to a modern day wing-back, and in my opinion the defensive lapses are 100% fixable, especially for a manager like Conte. If Destiny is committed and willing to put in the work on the training ground, there is no doubt he will become a complete player.
Unlike my other reports, there is less of a guessing game with Udogie’s future as he already has a plan laid out in front of him. Spurs are in dire need of a hard reset, as there are a lot of players that need to be moved on and lots of signings that will need to be made if they are to take that next step and start competing for a Premier League title. Udogie’s performances in the last 2 seasons for Udinese have shown both fans and Spurs themselves that he is the premier option for the left wing-back role for the foreseeable future. I do hope that Conte is given enough time with Destiny in the summer to re-haul the defensive side of his game, as I feel he could potentially be exposed far too often by the top wingers in the Premier League. This shouldn’t be an issue, however, as his biggest issue defensively is mainly down to mindset and work-rate. There is nothing to doubt offensively, so I believe that if/when Udogie makes the next step and becomes a capable player going both backwards and forwards, he will become one of the best wing-backs in the Premier League in a couple of years’ time.