Is Daniel Levy’s spending leading Spurs to stagnate?
It is due to Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy that the Londoners, 13/2 for a top four Premier League finish with Coral, are one of the most notoriously tough clubs to negotiate with in the transfer window.
Many of Europe’s elite may admire Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane from afar, but would splutter when expected to cough up the cash Spurs, lead by boardroom bigwig Levy, would stubbornly demand.
Infamous examples include a world record fee of around £85.3m for Gareth Bale, with the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick and Luka Modric also bringing in vast sums that the would-be top four challengers may not have collected without their skilled negotiator.
Would David de Gea, hypothetically protecting Tottenham posts instead of Manchester United’s, be allowed to reach the final year of his deal under Levy? Doubtful.
Yet, aside from selling star players to turn a handsome profit, there are other, not so favourable, calling cards of Levy’s White Hart Lane reign, since taking over from Lord Alan Sugar in 2001.
Namely, a seeming reluctance to spend the funds repeatedly squeezed out of rivals for their leading men on high-profile replacements, and being unable to offload out-of-favour players who bloat the squad.
Two problems clearly linked. So, rightly lauded for the money brought in, is Levy hampering his side’s spending?
At the beginning of this summer, Spurs’ squad was stuffed with unwanted fringe players and, while the capital club have bid goodbye to Paulinho, Lewis Holtby, Etienne Capoue, Benjamin Stambouli, Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches, many stragglers remain.
It is quite a list and Tottenham have arguably had more transfer misses than hits over the past few terms, aside from the odd gem ala Eriksen, dipping into the coffers for quantity rather than quality.
The scattergun approach suggests a lack of planning and proper scouting, and is underwhelming from an apparently ambitious club with Champions League intentions.
For example, this off-season, Tottenham remain without top quality support for hitman Kane, but have brought in several young defenders not yet ready for action.
Sloppy spending of the Bale money (see Erik Lamela and Roberto Soldado, for a combined fee in the region of £50m, but just 22 goals between them since arriving) seems to have lead to hesitancy and increased caution this summer.
This, in-turn, saw head coach Mauricio Pochettino start the season with a defeat to Manchester United as Kane toiled up top alone, amid rumours Spurs were haggling, fruitlessly, over Saido Berahino’s mooted fee.
Now, reports suggest Spurs are close to landing young Lyon striker Clinton N’Jie, though worryingly the Ligue 1 big-guns appear content to let the attacker go.
Cameroon international N’Jie would be one for the future, yet Tottenham already have plenty of potential prodigies and what they need now is proven players, but they are yet to be delivered, with this transfer seeming another step sideways.
With Soldado also set to depart through the back door, and further exits expected, however, Spurs could actually make a pretty penny from their squad players, in another example of their chairman’s savvy.
For example, shipping off Strambouli to PSG for a reported £1.3m more than the £6m fee they forked out is business well done, though losses were made on the likes of Capoue and Paulinho.
The main problem is ejecting high-earners, such as Emmanuel Adebayor, who Pochettino recently told press was “not in my plans and he knows that”, off the wage bill, but that has proven tricky so far.
Once Tottenham have found flush buyers and freed up some extra funds from faded homegrown hopes such as Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend, who have had their shots, perhaps a marquee man can finally be acquired.
Yet, as heralded as Levy and Tottenham are for pushing top price for their exports, recent transfer history suggests it will be more squad players who arrive to take those places and further slow down Spurs’ development.
If the London club, 16/1 to win the Europa League, are to truly challenge for silverware instead of treading water, an overhaul of policy is required and passengers given short shrift.
They may have been once-bitten by post-Bale purchases, but Tottenham need to loosen the purse strings and take another risk if they are not to remain mere also-rans for the foreseeable, which could be Levy’s toughest task yet.