The irony, as far as Tottenham Hotspur are concerned, is that they arguably need Pau Torres more now than they did back then, when Villarreal’s Spain international turned down a move to the Premier League giants during the summer of 2021.

“I was informed of Tottenham’s interest,” Torres told Marca at the time. “But I was clear from the first moment what I wanted, and so I decided calmly. I decided that the best thing for me was to continue at Villarreal. “We have many challenges this season that I am passionate about. It didn’t take long for me to decide. This is only the fourth time Villarreal (have) reached the Champions League, which shows how hard it is (to qualify).

“It was a dream to play in this competition with my boyhood club.” With Ben Davies stepping in and impressing in a new-look left-sided centre-half role as Antonio Conte guided Tottenham to a fourth-place finish at Arsenal’s expense, missing out on Pau Torres hardly proved to be a ruinous blow as far as Spurs’ short-term ambitious went.

But reports suggesting that Pau Torres is belatedly on his way to England two years later – The Guardian say that Aston Villa have agreed a potential £35 million deal with Villarreal – may raise some rather probing questions among the Spurs support.

Aston Villa to sign former Tottenham target Pau Torres
Why, when Tottenham are so clearly in the market for a left-sided centre-half, did Daniel Levy not attempt to pick up where he left off in 2021? Spurs are already pursuing Bundesliga duo Edmond Tapsoba (Bayer Leverkusen) and Micky Van de Ven (Wolfsburg) after opting against triggering Clement Lenglet’s purchase clause.

Was this a classic case of ‘once burned, twice shy’? Well, it certainly shouldn’t have been. Torres has just one year left on his contract, and was always likely to leave this summer. In stark contrast to 2021, the 26-year-old is now ready for a new challenge after achieving all he can at his hometown club. Did Spurs feel Torres would be too expensive, at £35 million? Maybe. He was due to become a free-agent in just 12 months’ time, after all. And it’s not exactly Levy’s style to do deals like this.

‘A hell of a signing’
Perhaps the biggest concern rattling around in Tottenham heads was that Aston Villa always had an ace up their sleeve, given the presence of Torres’ former Villarreal boss Unai Emery in the Villa Park dugout.

Suggestions that Torres is choosing Villa over both Juventus and Bayern Munich speak volumes about the mutual respect between he and Emery.

But, still, it wouldn’t have hurt to try. The arrivals of Guglielmo Vicario and James Maddison have becalmed fears of another summer of underinvestment but Spurs are still one defender short. Torres, meanwhile, is not only one of Europe’s most underrated centre-halves, but also one who’s left-footedness and passing range would have fitted Ange Postecoglou’s system like a hand in a glove.

“Good player,” former Spurs midfielder Danny Murphy told talkSPORT after learning of Aston Villa’s interest in Torres (28 June, 12pm). “A lovely footballer. Good size, (he’s got) presence.

“That would be a hell of a signing.”