Well no one expected this. Just when you think there’s nothing left at Spurs to surprise, we begin pre-season training with signings in the bag and more to come. The man whose transfer window brinkmanship is both loathed and envied in equal measure by his fellow chairmen has bought Vertonghen and Sigurdsson, lined up Adebayor and above all enabled Bale to stay, at least for a while. Rumour has it we’re actively in the market for several other promising players. Already I’m growing nostalgic for the White Hart Lane fax machine, glowing red-hot at one minute to midnight on deadline day as the chairman frantically unblocks another paperjam. Has Daniel Levy changed his buying policy and if so, why?
Although at first sight this business appears to mark a radically different direction, there are distinct signs of consistency rather than change at work. The new boys possess the value that Levy prizes above all: if all goes well they have their best years ahead of them, Spurs represents a step up and their fees were reasonable as presumably are their salaries. It’s not about being cheap and never has been. For these reasons Levy rightly sees value in these investments, an acceptable risk in the most uncertain market of all.
Also, Levy’s best work with contracts lately has been to tie our good players to long-term deals contracts. Over the past 18 months, Lennon, Huddlestone, Walker, Modric, Sandro and Livermore have all signed up, which gives them a reward for services rendered, is a statement of intent that we are to keep our best players and it protects their price if they are sold. Win-win, just the way Levy likes it. Bale is merely the next in line.
Then there’s the new manager effect. Levy has a decidedly mixed record when it comes to picking the new guy but when they arrive, he backs them with cash. Villas-Boas appears to be happy that his boss is being so responsive. Again, nothing new here.
What particularly interests me is why these players signed, because they must have turned down other offers. Of course it’s welcome to White Hart Lane, the world famous home of Tottenham Hotspur, with a reputation for playing good football. And for a small ground, low wages, no trophies and the Europa League. Let’s not kid ourselves: the newcomers are saying all the right things but they must have had a sweet deal. I have no problem with that, by the way. Not being critical, just reminding ourselves that N17 may be the ultimate attractive destination for us, not necessarily for anyone else.
Which begs the crucial question, has Levy shredded the hitherto sacred wage structure, the self-imposed salary cap of £70k a week? If so, it’s the most fundamental change of heart this century.
It’s likely that although the limit has been religiously adhered to over the past few years and contributed to our financial security, some players received substantial bonuses in order to either sign or keep them, for example lump sum signing on payments and/or “loyalty” bonuses after a year or so.
A couple of rumours from informed sources suggest Modric and now Bale earn 6 figure salaries. I doubt our own Siggy Stardust gets that but it’s probable we paid more than Liverpool were offering. He turned them down and the chance to work with Rodgers, the manager who developed his career enormously. Liverpool would have been favourites to beat us for his signature. No longer. Reports suggest Manu’s salary is apparently not a problem. That’s Manu accepting a pay cut of 100k a week. Just like that. I find that hard to believe. I suspect Levy has found something to bridge at least part of the gap. Either that or the lure of Sir Les as striker coach is impossible to resist.
Although the cap was always controversial, one sound reason for keeping it has now disappeared. Give more to one or two new signings and this could unbalance the whole salary structure, causing resentment and friction in an otherwise settled squad. However, all the players likely to be at the top of the scale have now gone, bar Luka who is on his way. Keane departed long ago, King is about to retire, Pienaar to be sold. That leaves Defoe possibly but otherwise no one gets that much as far as I can gather. As ever, happy to stand corrected. The new guys are being handsomely rewarded no doubt, it’s just that everyone can move up without substantially altering the equilibrium that has underpinned excellent morale and team spirit or skewing the total budget.
Whilst there are elements of continuity in Levy’s transfer policy, his stance has shifted slightly but significantly. Learning from experience, he feels he has more budget flexibility and so can move earlier to tie up a deal without becoming a pushover as the prolonged Vertonghan deal shows. Despite the costs of the new stadium, the Premier League is awash with dosh from the new TV deal and anyway, we’re still not paying stupid money. These are good quality footballers, good value in the today’s market. In passing, it shows how far apart he and Redknapp were over transfers.
In other news, the new kit has been welcomed by most but not by me, because we play in white shirts and navy blue shorts. Not a lot to ask. Nevertheless, many have seen Under Armour’s responsiveness with fans plus a butch photoshopped team photo and 30 minutes of AVB in front of a microphone as evidence of good times to come. As for me, the mood feels fine but I’d prefer something more substantial than PR. Meanwhile, the complaints continue because it remains nigh on impossible to give Spurs money as tickets for the first game of the season go on sale to cries of frustration as the cruel mocking purple line returns to fans’ lives. Some things never change.