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Radu Dragusin: Tottenham’s ‘Bodyguard’ with ambitions to conquer the world

Radu Dragusin playing for Genoa before his transfer to Tottenham Hotspur

When most children with a taste for football were gravitating towards the artistry of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, it was a different story for Radu Drăgușin.

As his father Dan explains, it was at a very young age growing up in Bucharest that his son had one ambition: to be the best defender in the world.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new signing has become Romania’s most expensive player with more than £21 million paid to Genoa, and there is a sense that heading to the Premier League was his destiny. His parents played sport for Romania - Dan in volleyball and his mother Svetlana in basketball - and he showed an aptitude for both disciplines.

But as Dan Drăgușin explained to Telegraph Sport this week, football was the only focus from an early age. There were no posters of footballers on the walls, just a determination to reach the top as a centre-back.

“I’m not proud… I am the proudest father,” Drăgușin said. “I know how he worked very hard to arrive at this point. He was very determined. It was his goal when he was very little to become the best defender in the world. He is not there at the moment but I am sure in the right way, within two or three years, he will be the best.

“He has very good statistics in different skill areas but he has a lot potential to grow and I am sure he will in this new team, Tottenham, where he will have all the conditions to grow his value. This is a very good team, with a very good tradition, and the manager [Ange Postecoglou] is a special guy, a real professional. Radu will arrive in this place and I’m sure this is the best place to grow.

“He started a bit with volleyball as a child and played basketball like his mother but at the same time he started to play football around seven. From when he was around eight years old he decided to play only football. After all these years the conclusion is that he chose correctly.”

Dragusin playing football in Romania as a child
Dragusin playing football in Romania where he was picked up by scouts - Klaus Mihail

The young Radu Drăgușin, with his determination to reach the top, was in the environment of elite players from 11 when his boyhood club Sportul Studențesc folded and he joined Regal Sport București, a club with a partnership with Atletico Madrid who wore the famous red and blue colours of the Spanish giants.

“I would not like to undermine the role of our academy in his career path,” Klaus Mihail, sports director at Regal, said. “We did things differently, we took it to a whole new level and went ‘international’ ever since we started out in 2011.”

Footage of Drăgușin playing for Regal showed a player that stood out, long-haired with his now familiar headband and a commanding presence as he captained the team.

“We had training camps at Paris St-Germain, all sorts of international tournaments and friendly fixtures during a season,” Mihail said. “For example, the 2015 season ended with a friendly tournament at Atletico Madrid in Spain. We tried to prepare the young players for this exact moment: a big transfer in a top-five league and for them to be able to cope with all the pressure behind this.”

Drăgușin had trials with Parma, OGC Nice and Empoli before he was signed by Juventus. Premier League clubs, including Tottenham, were thought to be well aware of this talent from Bucharest; a warrior of a centre-back who was mature for his years.

Dan and Radu Dragusin in 2017 while the youngster was at Juventus
Dan and Radu Dragusin in 2017 while the youngster was at Juventus - Dan Dragusin

“Radu has skyrocketed over the past 12 months, and that is testament to his mental grit, willingness and formidable physical strength and stamina,” Mihail said. “He has become a regular at Genoa and was among the top three players by minutes played in the national team’s historic qualification for the Euros.”

In Italy, he was signed under Fabio Paratici at Juventus and found his place at Genoa after loan spells at Sampdoria and Salernitana. When he broke into the team, they started calling him ‘The Bodyguard’ for his all-action style. It rings true for his father, who sees those attributes in his son.

“He is a man of the team. He doesn’t like to talk too much. He likes to make things happen,” Drăgușin said. “This is Radu. A very kind man. Empathy for the rest of the guys, a team player. Always, when he tried to do something, he finished the job. He always liked to learn new things and help people.

“He worked very hard, with two practices a day on top of his school work, which he always did. But all the time he followed his dream. He does it with passion and determination and this whole thing made him arrive at this point.

“He didn’t have an idol when he was growing up, he just observed a lot of players. But hopefully he will be an idol for little boys to love football and sports because he has a very strong character. You will see that starting from the first day. He will show to all of us what a super player he is.”

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