Tottenham Hotspur are considering recalling teenage centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers from his loan spell at Sheffield United, although manager Mauricio Pochettino insists such a decision would not be as the direct result of a shortage of centre-backs caused by Toby Alderweireld's continued absence.
Carter-Vickers joined fellow academy graduate Josh Onomah (Aston Villa) in signing a new long-term contract before heading out on loan to the Championship in August in what was something of an unusual move from Pochettino, who typically likes to keep his talented young players as part of the first-team squad.
The 19-year-old, who earned his first senior international cap for the United States against Portugal last month, has subsequently started 13 of Sheffield United's 21 second-tier matches in 2017-18, helping the sixth-place Blades to position themselves for a run at a second successive promotion.
Pochettino confirmed last week that Tottenham - currently without summer signing Davinson Sanchez due to suspension - do possess options that would allow them to recall both Carter-Vickers and Onomah from their respective season-long loans when the transfer window reopens for business in January.
While Victor Wanyama's imminent return from a long-term knee injury should eliminate the need to disrupt the latter's impressive stint under Steve Bruce, today's news that Alderweireld is now expected to be sidelined until February with the hamstring tear suffered against Real Madrid in early November is likely to increase speculation over the former.
However, Pochettino claims that any return for Carter-Vickers to north London would not be as simply cover for the absent Belgian.
"Yes, it's a decision [recalling Carter-Vickers] we need to talk about in the next few days," he was quoted as saying by football.london at a press conference held before Wednesday's (13 December) Premier League clash with Brighton & Hove Albion at Wembley Stadium.
"But I think if all is going well with Toby... I think at the beginning of February he will be ready again to play, and I think... It's true that today with Davinson suspended, maybe the squad looks a little bit like we need someone. But I think we have different players that can play there, and I think I am happy with the squad. We'll see.
"The decision with Cameron is more about his development than if we need or don't need some more centre-backs in the squad. The decision will be together with [head of coaching and player development] John McDermott, [academy manager] Dean Rastrick and [chief scout] Steve [Hitchen] and of course the club, and trying to provide the player the solution, but not because maybe we need to cover the position or not."
Asked specifically if Alderweireld's setback would alter Tottenham's transfer plans, he said "No no, it doesn't change our view about the squad or to take some decisions differently because he's injured."
Alderweireld's contract impasse has also been back in the news of late, with chairman Daniel Levy expressing confidence that an agreement over an extension will be reached.
"Of course [it's important that Alderweireld stays for the long-term], it's his decision, it's our decision," Pochettino said. "It's still two-and-a-half years on his contract. It's like different players who have maybe medium to long-term contracts and we are looking forward to playing with him and him staying here with us."
Pochettino added he was "so calm at how Levy drives everything and manages all the contracts with the players" and that his relationship with the chairman remained strong. Looking towards the transfer window he said wanted Tottenham to try and take advantage of the English market and complete deals much earlier than they did during a testing summer full of frustrating delays.