Is Vincent Janssen any good? Although he’s not been in the news this close season, the answer has a huge bearing on Kyle Walker’s transfer from Spurs to Manchester City.
Kyle Walker is the most expensive English player ever. Not a sentence I ever thought I would write on Tottenham On My Mind. Silly money. End of days. Football’s gone up the Khyber. Except to City, he is worth £50m because that’s what they paid for him. Spurs priced him right. Price determined by supply and demand, one of the basic laws of economics.
Yesterday’s Mail calls it the moment the Premier League lost its mind. Not so. If Pep reckons Walker can make the difference, and his system makes the most of full-backs, City will get that money back over the life of his contract from the PL, the Champions League, TV, worldwide merchandising and following United’s example, even noodle sponsorship. I firmly subscribe to the view that there’s nothing new under the sun, and I wonder how Walker’s fee compares with big transfers in the past as a percentage of a club’s annual income. To use an anachronism in this post-modern world, City have simply backed their manager.
How much Walker is truly worth to Tottenham, however, can be measured only in terms of what his fee will buy us. Last season £50m covered half a Spurs team, of internationals at that. Now, it equals one Gylfi Sigurdssson, a Ross Barkley plus a third choice goalkeeper or two-thirds of a Lukaku. Forget pounds shillings and pence, think of it more as a new currency, a Premier League Bitcoin, that bears little relation to what preceded it. Such and such isn’t worth the money or making adverse comparisons with the price of star players in the recent past – PremCoin renders all these conversations redundant. TV money plus a few billionaire owners plus the lure of future riches creates inflation to rival that of the Weimar Republic, the difference being that rather than City paying for Walker with wheelbarrows of hastily printed notes, cash plus income plus credit plus turnover provides substance to the deal.
The past is so skewed, someone is probably even willing to buy Moussa Sissoko. However, by the time the season begins, we may be talking less about silly money and more about a transfer crisis, because a Kyle Walker of this new PremCoin could turn out to be of scant value.
Which is where Vinny comes in. It’s imperative Spurs have a decent player up front to allow Kane to rest his weary limbs. Decent as in high quality, because we aspire to be as good as any side in the league and to mount an effective challenge in Europe. ‘Back-up striker’ gives the wrong impression – they will not be first choice but they’ve got to be good. In truth Spurs need three to cover for injuries but it’s likely Son will fill that role should the need arise.
These players are in short supply, so if Pochettino doesn’t rate Janssen then that £50m could disappear faster than Theresa May at a public meeting. We need players in other positions too. The same argument can be made in respect of Kevin Wimmer who also looks disposable. Having capably filled in the previous season for an injured Vertonghen, he barely featured last term, a sign that the manager no longer rates him, yet we need another centre back. A creative midfielder, and N’Jie and N’Koudou haven’t satisfied Pochettino’s urge for a wide man with serious pace. And there’s a vacancy for another right-back of course.
The search is made more difficult because there are few openings in the first team, with almost every current player capable of improving let alone keeping their place. Also, while salaries are being expressed in PremCoin, Levy maintains a ceiling of around £100k a week. At the time of writing Spurs are the only PL team not to have signed anyone and the wait may last a bit longer because any player of quality will have other offers, actual or potential, with wages higher than Tottenham are prepared to pay.
And we have a new stadium to pay for. Earlier this summer Levy stated that the ring-fenced transfer budget would not be affected by the building works because the finance is in place for the latter. That’s probably true, but Levy avoids the crucial question of just how much is available. We all know our transfer budget would be much higher without the new ground.
I’ll miss Kyle Walker and wish him the very best in the future. While England returned from Euro 2016 diminished as a team and as individuals, Walker and his full-back partner Rose were the exceptions. What followed was a golden period, Walker a man transformed, flying up and down the wing and confident in defence. His crossing could have been sharper but there were so many of them that after Eriksen, he made more goal-scoring opportunities in his time at the club than any other player.
Never blessed with great in-game intelligence, seasons came and went with Kyle wandering gormlessly in defence, oblivious apparently to much of what was going around him and periods where his mind was in another place entirely. Then came Pochettino. On the training pitch Walker was given time and clear expectations on the field of play. He became as good a full-back as anyone in Europe, essential to Pochettino’s evolving tactics and a testament to the manager’s coaching ability. If he can transform Walker, he can improve any player on the planet.
I’ll remember him most for his efforts when things weren’t going as well, for Spurs or for him. For the second halves at White Hart Lane when Tottenham needed a goal yet weren’t getting anywhere, when he fought off the tiredness that afflicted his team-mates and dragged himself up and down his wing, shuttle-runs that would exhaust a 400m runner in training, in order to become the spare man on the wing for a colleague desperate to find space and a pass. He returned to his defensive duties, back in formation, chest heaving and gasping for breath, then go again ever willing as the space appeared in front of him. He looked perplexed rather than confident, yet forced himself into action for the sake of the team. And I will always have a place in my memory for players with that attitude.
I am old-fashioned enough to be troubled by the sale of a top player to one of our main rivals. In the past, this would be another sign that Spurs lack ambition and that Levy was more interested in the bank balance than silverware. Superficially, selling to City smacks of desperation. In fact it reeks of reality. Leaving aside the rumours of a falling out, Pochettino believes he can use £50m elsewhere at a time when he knows his budget is nowhere near that of our rivals. He backs his ability to make players better, and if he can get Walker to defend then he can do the same with Trippier, and he won’t have to teach Tripps how to cross the ball.
‘Transfer budget’ is a complex concept these days with calculations including not merely the fee but also wages over the contract length and sell-on value. That said, Spurs have concluded deals for loanees Bentaleb, N’jie and Fazio, plus the sale of keeper Luke McGee, around £80 with Walker, and surely there’s a French club who hasn’t sussed Sissoko yet. Not all of that will probably be available to the manager but it’s a start.
Above all, Pochettino looks to have succeeded in his primary goal, keeping the rest of the squad intact. Our salary structure leaves us vulnerable but they seem to be content. As is the manager, our biggest asset.