Playing against ‘one of the greats’ in Cristiano Ronaldo left Japhet Tanganga awestruck and one the young Tottenham defender will never forget.
Tanganga is slowly beginning to make his mark at Tottenham and recently put pen-to-paper on a new five-year contract.
The 21-year-old is a product of the club academy and made 11 appearances in the first-team last term. It came off the back of an impressive pre-season, which saw him face Juventus in the International Champions Cup in Singapore.
The fixture saw Tanganga start as a center-back and tasked with marking Ronaldo during the first half, which he pulled off famously well.
Does Jose say to another coach about Tanganga. He marked Cristiano Ronaldo, make him known. pic.twitter.com/j0eTTLJX7u
— Jack.A (@thfcjack_) November 20, 2019
It was so impressive that Jose Mourinho was heard saying ‘he marked Cristiano Ronaldo, make him known’ to coaching staff during his very first training session at Spurs last November.
“That was crazy! It didn’t feel real in many ways,” Tanganga told talkSPORT on facing Ronaldo.
“I was thinking, ‘I was just playing this man on FIFA but now this is real life, I’m playing against one of the greats’. He has a presence for sure.
“Luckily, I played well that day and so did the team, but I’ll never forget coming up against him for sure.”
Ronaldo eventually scored in that game after Tanganga was substituted at half-time for Jan Vertonghen. However, Harry Kane’s howler from the half-way line sealed a memorable 3-2 win.
But it wasn’t until Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino as manager that first-team chances came Tanganga’s way.
The England U-20 international, who made his Premier League debut against Liverpool on January 11, has already made 10 appearances under Mourinho in all competitions. He only made one with Pochettino in comparison.
“He’s been very fair to me,” Tanganga said on the Spurs boss.
“It’s been said that he doesn’t give youngsters a chance, this and that, but Skippy [Oliver Skipp] and I are proof that he does.
“When he came in he didn’t say anything special to me personally, but he just made it known to everyone that if you worked hard in training you’d be rewarded and that’s exactly how it’s been for me.
“For him to show faith in me to face Liverpool, who had been dominating the league at the time, was definitely a big thing.”