How Spurs are being haunted by their transfer demons of yesteryear

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

This summer, Spurs became the first team in Premier League history to not make any summer signings ever since the introduction of the transfer window back in 2003. Why was this? and are Spurs being punished for the lessons they failed to learn in previous windows?

It’s fair to say that after failing to make a single signing after reports of the club set to loosen the purse strings in a £150 million war chest, there has been unrest amongst Spurs supporters. What lessons did we as fans learn about our transfer policy? what did the club learn from this? and how does the club go about preventing such problems in future windows?

Unloading the excess baggage:

Spurs have had mixed fortunes in the transfer window during Daniel Levy’s tenure, striking gold with stars such as Alderweireld, Dele Alli, Eriksen, Lloris, Sanchez, Son Heung-Min, and Vertonghen just a few notable successes of extensive scouting within the last five years.

However, one criticism of the club’s recruitment policy is the tight-fisted approach in the transfer market and the acceptance of defeat in pursuing their number one targets and moving further down the list at the third/fourth choice players shortlisted. Unfortunately this is too much of a regular occurrence for a club the size of Spurs, we’ve seen it far too often in recent times from missing out on Sadio Mane to eventually settling on a £30 million deal for Moussa Sissoko instead of a £34 million deal for Mane.

In recent times, the club’s low risk low reward deals have caught up with the club, with the likes of Nkoudou and N’Jie epitomising the clubs alternative transfer strategy and the misfortunes of this approach. To play devil’s advocate, the club have also had their hands stung with high risk deals for Moussa Sissoko and Vincent Janssen.

Unfortunately this summer, the club have been stuck in a tough predicament this season, with the club needing to offload foreign players such as Janssen, Llorente, Nkoudou and Sissoko in order to make space for potential foreign arrivals, in order to fulfil homegrown quotas.

Spurs flops Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and Moussa Sissoko.

These half-hearted gambles such as Janssen, Llorente, Nkoudou and Sissoko have become unsellable assets which ultimately have tarnished the club’s approach in future transfer windows and could be a huge external factor in the club’s inability to add any fresh faces to the squad.

Perhaps, the club’s past transfer demons could become a bittersweet lesson for the club to learn from in the future and the clear gulf in quality between fringe players and first team players should be a barometer of the appropriate risks needed to maintain a steady course of progression.

Taking a back seat for a clearer view.

Negotiations with Daniel Levy have become somewhat of a punchline in recent years, with the Spurs chairman notorious for his tough negotiations, selling at inflated prices and trying to recruit at economical prices.

You only have to look as far as Sir Alex Ferguson, who claims Man United completely cut all negotiations with Daniel Levy as a result of his stern ways.

Whilst this definitely has its perks, it also has its flaws. The deadwood around the club is clogging up the squad and could potentially prevent any new signings of a foreign trade due to homegrown quotas needing to be filled.

The harsh reality is that in order to stay competitive at the top levels of professional football, you have to loosen the purse strings, and Spurs find themselves in a tricky predicament with the build of their new home undoubtedly eating up some of the club’s budget.

But, we do need to add to this squad in order to remain competitive at the summit of English football, as key games last season such as Manchester United (FA Cup semi-final) and Juventus (Champions League round of 16) demonstrated that maybe Spurs are one or two more dynamic players away from becoming a true force to be reckoned with.

Daniel Levy has done a good job in getting Tottenham Hotspur on an upward trajectory both on a football and commercial sense. However, his involvement in transfers is proving to be a square peg in a round hole, the man is a very good businessman on a commercial front, yet is arguably too business-savvy to be negotiating transfer matters which could have the potential to kick Spurs on as a club. It’s going to get to a stage where Spurs are going to need to join in this radical spending and a reluctance to do so could be damaging to the club’s long term ambitions on the field.

It might be time for Daniel Levy to swallow some pride and take a back seat for a clearer view of how the club could do its business with the appropriate parties, which leads me nicely onto my next point.

Finding the middle man

After Spurs’ mixed fortunes in the transfer market in recent years, the club have chopped and changed with different approaches in the market. From Franco Baldini and the false dawns of the magnificent seven back in 2013, to the trial and error of Paul Mitchell in more recent years.

After a transfer window that flattered to deceive back in the summer of 2016, head of recruitment Paul Mitchell and Spurs decided to part ways after the club were left disappointed with the combined fee of £60 million for the transfers of Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, Moussa Sissoko and Vincent Janssen who all eventually disappointed in a summer to forget (recruitment wise) with the capture of Victor Wanyama the only saving grace in a frankly underwhelming transfer window.

Since then, the club have yet to replace the void left by Paul Mitchell with the club’s recruitment team reportedly consisting of just Daniel Levy (chairman), Steve Hitchen (Chief Scout) and Mauricio Pochettino (manager).

Whilst the failures of Baldini as Director of Football were monumental, the club should not look back on the errors of one man and generalise to a whole network of key middle men who can provide an incredible difference in the way the club conduct business. If the club bought a goalkeeper who couldn’t save, would that put them off ever buying a new goalkeeper in the future, just because one person let them down? no, so why should it be different for a Director of Football?

Here are two prime examples of a Director of Football experiment perfectly executed:

Fabio Paratici:

After the Calciopoli scandal of Italian Football back in May 2006, corruption was high in the air and reliable businessmen with the club’s best interests in mind were few and far between.

In 2010, Fabio Paratici swapped his role of sporting director at Sampdoria for a spell with Italian heavyweights Juventus.

Since his arrival back in 2010, The Old Lady have a net spend of £121 million, winning seven consecutive Serie A titles, four Coppa Italias, and three Italian Suppercoppas. A total of 14 major honours have been won during Paratici’s eight years in Turin, meaning the Bianconeri average 1.75 trophies per season since his arrival.

Whilst the successes of Juventus do not lay wholeheartedly on the shoulders of the 46 year old Sporting Director, he has become a key component of the evolution of Juventus and the awakening of a sleeping giant *albeit in a fairly one-sided league*. He has recruited the likes of:

  • Andrea Barzagli (£300,000) now one of the top centre backs in the world.
  • Paul Pogba (free transfer) became one of the greatest midfielders in Europe and was sold for an £89 million profit.
  • Arturo Vidal (£10.5 million) became an established midfielder amongst Europe’s elite and was sold for a profit over £30.5 million.
  • Paolo Dybala (£32 million) now worth at least three times as much in current market state.
  • Alex Sandro (£26 million), last summer Juventus rejected bids in the region of £60 million for the Brazilian.

Monchi

Monchi is one of the greatest examples of a sporting director gone right, the former Sevilla goalkeeper retired from professional football at age 30 after a mundane career of being a second choice keeper at his hometown club Sevilla.

In 2000, Sevilla were relegated from La Liga and Monchi was appointed Director of Football at Los Rojiblancos. 

During his tenure, he put a lot of emphasis on youth, as well as finding and developing the best youth players around ready to be integrated into the Sevilla first team. Monchi helped discover the likes of Sergio Ramos at a young age before he was eventually sold on for a £27 million profit after one season of senior professional football.

Dani Alves was discovered by Monchi and was brought to the club on an initial loan deal, but after impressing at youth international level the club made the move permanent for a fee in the region of £425,000. After six years in Seville, Dani Alves was eventually sold on after publically forcing a £23.5 million deal to Barcelona in 2009, where he went onto become one of the greatest right backs of his generation.

Monchi was also at the full front of Ivan Rakitic‘s rise to stardom, the Sevilla Director of Football acquired the services of Rakitic from FC Schalke for a fee of £2.5 million (which is equivalent to 1/12th of Moussa Sissoko’s price tag) before selling the Croatian on to Barcelona for a fee of £24 million just three seasons later.

Monchi is the dream Director of Football for Spurs, a man who has an added emphasis on youth as well as an incredible eye for cheap talent, he seems almost tailor-made for Tottenham Hotspur. Unfortunately the Spaniard signed a five year contract with AS Roma in 2017, where he would acquire the services of Allison Becker for £7.5 million before selling him to Liverpool for a fee of £72.5 million, making a £65 million profit.

These two are cracking examples of how big an impact a Director of Football can make on a club’s on field ambitions as well as maintaining steady profits year upon year. Now I’m not saying that because these two are exceptional at their jobs, Spurs should go and get them, as I feel they are unrealistic targets due to Paratici’s club level, and Monchi’s recent arrival in Rome.

I am just using these as an example, as to how the club could improve their transfer strategy with the appropriate roles being fulfilled, as I feel that Spurs’ recruitment has proved to be an achilles heel in recent years and has held them back.

Up the Spurs.

This article first appeared on Cockerel Talk.

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