By Christian Radnedge
LONDON (Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Moussa Sissoko has often struggled to justify his price tag since arriving for a club record 30 million pounds ($38.3 million) from Newcastle United in 2016 but this season has seen a change in fortune.
The fans have stopped moaning about the muscular Frenchman's performances and now sing his name after he turned around his form to become a key asset for Mauricio Pochettino's side.
Spurs did not make any close-season signings and have struggled with injuries to many of their key players who took part in this year's World Cup in Russia.
Sissoko, 29, missed out on a place in the France squad that lifted the trophy but has since featured in eight of Tottenham's 13 Premier League matches, helping them climb to third in the standings with his industrious box-to-box play.
He was also influential in keeping alive Spurs' Champions League hopes, his drive from midfield leading to Christian Eriksen's goal in Wednesday's 1-0 win over Inter Milan.
"At the moment I'm happy with what I'm doing on the pitch so I hope to keep going in that way. Since I came here, some periods weren't easy, but I never gave up and everyone here helped me to give my best," he told Tottenham's website https://www.tottenhamhotspur.com/news/moussa-its-a-good-time-i-want-to-keep-it-that-way.
"It's a great feeling to hear the fans singing my name, every player wants this kind of emotion."
It may have been a show of love that first truly ignited Sissoko's Spurs career, as Pochettino explained after the Milan game that he had given the Frenchman an encouraging embrace.
"I think first of all his team mates are so happy that the fans now show the love," Pochettino said this week.
"I remember a few games here (at Wembley) that the fans - because we are here, we feel and listen to everything - a month ago were not so positive, last season or the previous season.
"Then I remember one day that I hugged him and said, 'You're going to succeed here' (and) after (that) I worked with him."
Sissoko will get the chance to be a Tottenham hero on Sunday when he could feature in the north London derby at Arsenal.
Spurs have only won once at The Emirates since the stadium opened in 2006 and now would be a perfect time for the Frenchman to ensure his name will be sung by Spurs fans for years to come.
($1 = 0.7834 pounds)
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Ken Ferris)