With Or Without Him, Spurs On The Right Track

While the media fixate on Gareth Bale’s transfer like a toddler staring at a lollypop in a sweetshop, Daniel Levy is getting on with business. As Spurs approach the new season, it’s remarkable that an £85m transfer is not the most significant development at the club.

Levy’s vision for Tottenham Hotspur has provoked bile-infused debate since he became chairman in 2001. His prudent approach to housekeeping has left us financially secure but perennially short of being true contenders. This summer, things have changed. Roberto Soldado is the scorer, the pivot, the leader, the talisman that we have craved for so long. Like the Holy Grail, the quest seemed never-ending but now the myth has become flesh and blood. It’s unheard of for Spurs to spend £26m on a 28-year-old: Levy has finally got the message.

Levy’s hard to work out. Goodness knows he gives nothing away. I can’t recall more than a single big interview with him in the last ten years. Certainly he’s far more complex than the two-dimensional miser he’s made out to be by his detractors. He’s a fan and like all us becomes conflicted when it comes to major decisions about the club we love. When decisions don’t come easy, he reverts to an instinctive response, and his instinct is business.

Like any businessman he seeks to manoeuvre a situation where he maximises opportunity and minimises risk. Win-win is the ideal, albeit seldom realistically achievable. If not, protect yourself with a fall-back position that ensures a reasonably soft landing. Last summer Harry Redknapp presented a demand for a new contract. Levy saw better value elsewhere and probably felt ‘arry’s ‘art wasn’t in it, still pining for that England job. All in all, not good for Spurs, so HR was sent packing with a flea in his ear.

Andre Villas-Boas was very different. Levy has a mixed record when it comes to picking managers. The last time he took a risk with a guy for whom Spurs was a step up, Juande Ramos, it was a total disaster. Again, he had sacked a manager who had been reasonably successful, at least compared with what had gone before. So this time, he hedged his bets. Cruelly he limited Villas-Boas’ funds in the market, in particular denying him Moutinho, AVB’s man, who would be his leader and lynchpin in midfield. That Villas-Boas took that plus the absence of a proper strikeforce in his stride is a measure of his committment to the club.

This wasn’t Levy being a skinflint. Rather, he wasn’t prepared to take the double risk of a new manager and large expenditure. A poor decision in my view – he should have backed his manager – but to Levy it’s the cold hard realities of business. Now however, Our Andre has proved himself. To DL the investment is worth it. Not only Soldado – Levy has made other funds available for players who provide value. In recent years, Spurs have spent good money on men for whom the club is a step up, who will mature on the field and contribute to the team while at the same time increasing their price in the market should they be sold on. Modric and Berbatov are the two best examples, Dembele and Lloris last season. Not cheap, not youngsters but with their best years ahead of them. Value on the pitch and off it. Win win.

This approach has brought in Paulinho and Chadli plus, it seems highly likely, Caboue. I can only comment from my own observations on the Brazilian, who judging from the Confederations Cup looks a fine prospect, with skill, drive and the physique to prosper in Premier League midfields. Chadli sounds like he will fit right in, a ball-player with pace and versatility, the latter being a significant attribute in any VIllas-Boas team where movement and mobility are key and tactics change not only from match to match but during the game too.

The outgoings and salaries (I strongly suspect the top end of our self-imposed restrictive salary structure has been moved too) will to some extent be offset by the sale of those surplus to requirements, Parker, Huddlestone and Dempsey, all good men and true in their way but note the lack of pace they have in common. Despite this, Levy’s spending is running at unprecedented levels. I admire his unwillingness to get caught up in the crazy upward spiral of Premier League transfer business that threatens the long-term security of clubs who get it wrong. However, his reluctance to fully commit long ago became indefensible. It’s a decisive change that is long overdue and will be heartily welcomed by supporters.

I’d like to think it’s the fan in him that has made him change tack. The passion, the romance, the danger that makes any fulfilling relationship so scary and exciting at the same time, but I doubt Levy has abandoned his principles. To him, there are real returns to be had. At other clubs it’s spending off the scale like a drunken lottery winner. Levy however maintains his dead-eyed stare on the prize. Maximise opportunity – trophies, the Champions League, TV cash – and minimise risk – there’s plenty of value and profit in the squad, plus judging by last season a fair to middling chance of being genuine contenders, if not for the league itself then the top four and silverware. Same equation. It may not be win-win but it’s close enough for Daniel to take the risk. He believes this team can really do something and so do I.

There remains the question of where the money’s coming from. Not bad, a Spurs blog 800 words in and only one mention of the B word so far. Now if you are looking for a prime example of win-win, let’s pop inside Levy’s head for a second. Record transfer fee or one of the best players in Europe stays with us for at least one more season and retains a high transfer value. He’s in clover and from such a position of security will screw Real Madrid for every last euro.

Levy’s handled this very well. As I said on the When Saturday Comes site the other day, amid the media frenzy (have you ever read so much about so little, bearing in mind Levy has said absolutely nothing and there have been no statements from the club?) he has been icy inscrutability, taking his time and resisting the pressure of jumping at riches beyond our wildest dreams. This is how he always is. 85k or 85m, all the same to him. He’s so bloody minded, he could just turn down flat that £85m and allow Gareth to play on.

I wonder if he’s actually decided. Time is key to any negotiation and he must think that’s on his side too. Maybe if they respond with something nearer £100m, he would be foolish to ignore it, especially as it’s unlikely that fee would still be on the table this time next year. Bale may play supremely well for the rest of his career but it’s unlikely that he will ever again match the impact he’s had on the world of football this past season. The shock of the new.

Given Spurs’ sound financial position and the money from the TV deal, I suspect this spending is budgeted separately from any Bale deal. Then again, it is substantial and anyway Real’s euros may be earmarked already, either for the new stadium or to prepare the club for a sale. The I in ENIC stands for investment and they have to get a return at some point.

Call me crazy, call me mad as long as you don’t call me Shirley but I would keep him, although I reckon he will be sold. But then again, for me it’s all about the passion, the romance, the pain and the pleasure that cannot be separated if the heart is to beat that little bit faster. With or without him, Levy and Spurs are headed in the right direction.

Part two of the season’s preview on Friday. Maybe Saturday. Friday probably. The Manager, The Players, the Fans.

16 thoughts on “With Or Without Him, Spurs On The Right Track

  1. Sounds good but the only thing Levy must know is that Real could pull the plug at any time & therefore the outlay cannot be based solely on the predicded income from GB.

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    • All part of the art of tough negotiation, when to hold and when to fold. You’re right, this can’t depend on Bale. Unless of course the deal was effectively sorted out a while ago, which is what some are saying.

      Regards, Alan

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  2. I agree that Spurs are headed in the right direction.
    I still do not understand why, however (and I’ve been carping on about this all summer), Levy has not bought a top playmaker.
    We certainly have (as someone said) a ‘beast of a midfield’, some fine wing cover, excellent defenders, and now a decent striker to hopefully inspire Ade’s and Defoe’s response, BUT we have no one pulling the strings ..no heartbeat ..no brain ..in the middle. Someone who can slow down a game when necessary, play the cutting ball, or generally orchestrate! A person who can bring out the best of a strong squad and link all those around him ..someone who (as Modric did) made Parker, for example, look far more intelligent, strong and comfortable in 2011/12 than he did last season.
    You get the message, I’m sure. But does Levy? ..and AVB for that matter? Do they seriously think that added strength, speed, energy and rotation will create a balanced and consistent midfield, ready for every challenge? With Bale, and without a playmaker, we might wing it ..if you forgive the pun ..and possibly even get third (we’re that strong elsewhere) ..but without a Bale character taking games by the scruff of the neck, I cannot see brawn and energy being enough to challenge top four. Soldado needs a playmaker behind him, not just Dembele, and the whole team needs a controller in the middle.
    And one last thought; with Bale AND a creative player once more in midfield, we might just challenge for the title itself this season.

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    • Agree re playmaker. Maybe AVB has someone in mind, maybe the role is spread so to speak amongst several creative and skilful players. I said last season that Dembele should be further forward, he can be a fine passer around the box.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  3. I think that Levy is cagey about Real Madrid’s ability to flash the cash. There are several reports circulating that we still owed a large proportion of the Modric dosh – and I doubt Daniel figures “interest-free” (I hope not) loans to other clubs is what his business model is built upon. What might appear better is cash plus some part-ex, with Madrid chipping in to subsidise the enormous wage bills likely to be attached.

    Let’s see just how desperate they are to get their paws on Gareth-bach (actually Gareth-fawr these days) as I understand there is still a fortnight until the window slams shut. Several people have mentioned that if really big money does eventually change hands, Daniel will be the proverbial “I seen you comin’ punter” if it happens too soon.

    I am a little concerned that we don’t get too carried away with new signings. I admit the early indications look good, but the balance is not right yet. That’s AVB’s focus now… to get a formation that works, is strong and cohesive but flexible enough to approach each game based on a reasoned analysis of the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses. I believe that position is still some way off.

    Don’t want to sound too downbeat, but let’s give the manager time to get the best from all the players, existing and newly-introduced, before we start crowing like that strangulated cockerel up on the top of the stand roof.

    Here’s hoping…!

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  4. With or without you — subtle reference to that line from U2, Alan? Onto Bale. But backtrack for a second. I became a Spurs fan as a nipper watching Greavsie with my mum back in Newport, dad was/is an inveterate ManU fan. She probably liked him first, then got me onto him. I remember the utter joy he’d give me when he scored, it was child-like euphoria. Named my budgie after him, my passwords today are Greavsie related. I’ve seen all those glorious “Spurs” players in between (from Chivers, Hoddle, Ossie, Ricky, Allen, Gazza, Klinsmann) the ones who’d get you out of your seat wherever you were. But none of them have done it quite like Greavsie. Until Bale. First those Inter games. Then there was last season. WOW! I work with pro athletes over here in the USA. I interview them, hang out with them a little. So I tend to be sort of objective about sports in general. A little standoff-ish. Bale changed that last season. Childlike euphoria came back. It was awesome, it was Spurs, it was about glory, even if we didn’t win anything. Now, some great stuff going on squad wise as Alan has so eloquently outlined — who knew DML would actually spend like this. But the Bale thing is bothering me. I gave in to Bale with unexpurgated joy last season. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Even if he doesn’t leave this season — maybe we’re deluded and it’s a quasi done deal anyway — just the mercenary aspect of pro sports players moving on to supposedly greener grass unsettles me (RM have only won CL once in last 13 years and only 3 times since England won WC in ’66…RM living on past glories?). We fans are basically in it for the long haul…TTID. So I’m a little pissed. The boyo’s from my neck of the woods, I still got family there, as he does. I feel a connection. I’m going to ask it — what happened to loyalty? Perryman showed it. Giggs showed it and ManU didn’t win anything with Fergie those early years. We fans show it every August, come season kick off, no matter who’s wearing our colors. Hard to put a finger on it. But I am a little pissed. And nothing surprises me, anymore. TTID. Here’s to a great season, Alan!

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    • Don’t know why U2 popped up – you know me so well, Ashley. Can’t stand U2.

      I feel exactly the same about Bale, he brought back that sense of ‘childlike euphoria’, his exploits were larer than life in a homogenous league. And he seems like a decent down to earth Welsh lad. Too good to last.

      Cheers for your password, by the way.

      Regards, Al

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      • Cheers Alan, but the password doesn’t get you into my Caribbean private stash, unfortunately! The lads here at the LA Spurs Supporters club (they turn out in the many dozens, over a hundred for NLDs) wonder why I don’t turn out every week like many of them do. It’s this mercenary aspect that’s taken hold of sports. Living in Newport, my dad and his Royal Navy brother Duncan would go to local billiards spot and see County players hanging out. I’ve heard stories of Greavsie/Gilly doing likewise in 60s in Tottenham. That’s gone. I believe I love the concept of Spurs and the history and stories more than I do the players these days. We’re all ho’s these days, some more so than others. But the grass ain’t always greener! Ask Kaka, VDV and now Modric on the bench at RM!

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        • Yep, Gilly lived up the road in Enfield and they all used to drink in the Bell and Hare, last seen boarded up…

          The history is vital but as you know, leave the rest aside and come kick-off it’s white shirt, navy shorts, the fighting cockeral and for 90 minutes it’s still us and the team. Sit back and enjoy it.

          Regards, Al

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    • Ash:
      You still in Newport. I’m just up the road in Little Mill. Small world, eh?

      I recall as a nipper creating a two person pitch invasion with my brother when Mr Greaves scored a cheeky penalty past Mr Banks who was engrossed wiping his hands on what was left of the Paxton end with a nonchalent back-heel while waving to the Park Lane end to make it 6-2 with the last kick of the Lillywhites’ 1964-65 campaign. Eddie and I afterwards agreed as we hopped back over those looped railings that Mr G looked decidedly off-colour – a sort of greenish-yellow palour. Wasn’t it jaundice that kept him out of the following year’s World Cup finals?

      But I digress: howzabout Monsieur Capoue – looks tasty on Youtube? And, Alan: with you 100% on U2! Now if we think of the Big Pink, another Band comes to mind…

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  5. It’s ironic the ‘disaster’, Ramos, is the only bloke to have won ‘Daniel’ his solitary trophy in 13 years.

    The main thing here is that Levy has finally learnt the lesson that it’s best to bring players in before you pull the rug out from underneath the manager.

    For a club to be successful it needs continued investment in players. There will always be players moving on, and it’s about replacing them properly. Only when the team starts winning trophies regularly will our best players want to stay, but even then, some clubs, Real being one of them, are just to big to turn down. A world record transfer to arguably the biggest club in the world, Levy’s unprecedented spending spree, and Bale’s ‘injuries’ all indicate that he is 100% Madrid bound.

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    • I think Bale will go, but there is another scenario. Levy has unprecedented TV, some transfer income, slice off the salary budget, takes calculated gamble over two years that the expenditure gap will be offset by increased income if we do well (CL, far east merchandising), decides to spend now on condition that we spend little or nothing this time next eyar, i.e. budgets over two years.

      Regards, Al

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