DESTINY UDOGIE was born in Verona, the setting from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – and it is fair to say the Spurs fans have fallen in love with the left-back already.
The Italian, 20, born to Nigerian parents was actually signed last summer from Udinese for £15million.
But with Antonio Conte already having Ivan Perisic and Ryan Sessegnon on the left, it was thought best that the whizkid return to the club that sold him for a season-long loan.
Now he is flourishing in the Premier League but not in the position the club originally signed him for at wing-back under Conte, but as an inverted full-back in Ange Postecoglou’s attack-minded, 4-3-3 system.
Supporters have been hugely impressed with rapid Udogie’s composure and talent on the ball, becoming an auxiliary midfielder at times, as well as his defensive discipline.
He has already grabbed two assists in the top flight and at such a tender age, his potential is huge.
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Yet with the focus primarily on new boss Postecoglou, plus James Maddison and Yves Bissouma stealing the limelight, Udogie’s quick impact may have gone under the radar for fans outside the club.
The defender’s last name is pronounced ‘ooh-doggy’ and his Nigerian first name of Iyenoma translates to ‘Good News’.
His dad Franklin has been a driving force in his career, never missing a home game of his son’s back in Italy even on a Sunday when Udogie Snr would attend church.
But it was actually his mum Kate who first encouraged his passion for the game after noticing, as Udogie himself told SunSport in Perth this July, that “when I was a baby, I was kicking everything I saw around the house”.
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Then when Kate was taking older brother Uwa to football practice, she convinced the coach to allow a tearful Destiny to play too.
Kate told Gianlucadimarzio.com: “Destiny couldn't stop crying. He wanted to be with Uwa. So I asked the coach to let them train together. He was four years old, Uwa was five. That's how it all started.”
Destiny quickly impressed while at local side Nogara, with one on-looker from affiliated club Atalanta, not believing the youngster was actually six by the way he played and, according to Franklin, wanted to check his documents just to be sure!
Nonetheless, it was a case of try, try, try again for Udogie when it came to joining hometown side Hellas Verona, who rejected him twice after trials.
Allegedly, it was only thanks to the father of an older team-mate who played in Destiny’s brother’s team alerting the Hellas to the future Spurs star’s talents that he finally joined the Venetian side.
Udogie played up the ranks with Verona before a move to Udinese in 2021, initially on loan and then permanently.
His fantastic season with the Bianconeri, netting five Serie A goals, alerted Spurs and Inter Milan but it was the former who won his signature.
Back he went to Udinese for the campaign where he did not quite hit the same heights, performing brilliantly against the big sides like AC Milan and Napoli but less well against the lesser sides, as the team won between October and March.
There was also an incident with a car accident where Udogie lost control of his Mercedes around 3am and crashed into the front of a bar, destroying 12 chairs, three tables, two umbrellas, five large plant-holders and about ten plants.
The owner described the damage as if “a bomb went off”. Udogie apologised and was fined.
Udogie, who idolised Real Madrid legend Marcelo as a kid, has certainly put any dip in form from last term well and truly behind him at Spurs, where he has hit the ground running.
He has fit in extremely well into Postecoglou’s team – and the same can be said off the pitch.
Udogie is particularly close to fellow Italian and new signing Guglielmo Vicario, who has described the left-back as like his “little brother”.
But the huge tennis and basketball fan also gets on with pretty much everyone in the squad, helped by his laid-back character who appears unfazed by anything.
That latter attribute has certainly helped him put in some mature displays in the few games he has played so far, as has the fact that he will have had 80 senior games under his belt when he starts at home to Sheffield United on Saturday.
Postecoglou certainly seems to trust him already – the Aussie is a big believer in if you are good enough, you are old enough – and has been pleased with Udogie’s punctuality.
The Spurs boss said: "He's been great.
“I think with Destiny, Micky (Van de Ven) and Pape Sarr, these 20-year-olds, 21-year-olds, and say to them look, ‘You’re not going to be judged on your performances in these early games, not by me, so just go out there and play’.
“I think they’ve embraced that. They’ve enjoyed that freedom and belief that there was nothing that was going to happen out there that was going to say to me that they’re never going to be a player for this football club, because I was putting them out there.
“But for them it’s not easy, just putting them out there in the Premier League. It wasn’t just one I was putting in, it was three or four.
“We spoke about it as a coaching staff, for that first team selection, it could have been easier to go safer. Absolutely.
“But we needed to change and we needed to challenge things. Guys like Destiny and Micky and these players who have not just gone in there and found their feet, they’ve gone in there and tried to smash it. That’s what I want.”
Yet there is still some surprise within the club at just how well Udogie has taken to the Premier League, given most foreign signings, particularly young ones, need time to settle.
His hot form is expected to drop off a bit, as most youngsters fluctuate with their performances.
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But with the way he is going, it seems a first call-up to Italy’s senior side will not be far away.
Indeed, reports from his homeland suggest Azzurri chief Luciano Spalletti sees Udogie as one of a handful of starlets he may bring into the fold next month.
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