The January transfer window proves to be a crucial one for Tottenham Hotspur, but while it might set something of a benchmark in terms of on field ambition, it’ll also go some way to suggesting how high their aspirations sit away from the field of play.
While Andre Villas-Boas’ side has developed something of a steely efficiency in recent weeks, there’s still plenty of room for improvement as the club seek to push on for a fourth placed league finish, as well as success in the Europa League.
And in their quest to pursue some of the gifted talents linked with bolstering the Lilywhites’ campaign, such as the Christian Eriksens and the Willians of this world, they bestow the perfect asset in chairman Daniel Levy. The Essex-born businessman has not been without his faults during his time at the club, with his infamous brinkmanship sometimes causing the club as much harm as good.
But in terms of squeezing the best value out of deals for Spurs, from both a buying and selling perspective, there are few in the trade who can better Levy’s skills at the negotiating table.
Although while Levy’s public profile within English football has been built mostly upon his hard bargaining and eye for a profit in the transfer market, it’s very easy to forget just how well he’s run Spurs’ financial ship.
Regardless of how you view some of Levy’s managerial appointments and departures since he was appointed chairman in 2001, the way in which he’s managed to continuously ensure funds have been available for player transfers, while ensuring the club lives very much within its means, has been an admirable feat.
Throw in a £40million new training ground, the acquisition of nearly £90million worth of land over the last decade (in preparation for stadium development) and the fact the club’s overall finances continue to look both healthy and astute, if nothing else, the chairman can hardly be accused of lacking positivity. Certainly, compared to where the club sat in 2002, it’s difficult to argue to the contrary.
And of course, as Tottenham have grown in stature within the Premier League over the last decade, there’s been a natural correlation with the growing expectations of supporters. Having already had a taste of dining alongside Europe’s elite in the Champions League, all associated with the club crave a second, more sustained bite of the cherry. Consequently, continued investment in personnel is key to mounting an viable assault upon such ambitions.
But within the last 12 months at least, for a club with such lofty top four ambitions, investment has been very cautious indeed. In face, since January 2011, the club has in fact made a net profit in the transfer market.
Considering the tumultuous box office nature that was their summer transfer window of 2012, just because Spurs have been living within their means hardly means that they haven’t spent money. Tottenham shelled out just under £60million on talent this past summer, including the likes of Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris amongst others, which was in fact the fifth highest outlay on players during the summer in the whole of Europe.
Although poignantly, they did of course also sell a fair few players as well – not just any ordinary ones, either. Amongst those to pass through the White Hart Lane exit door were Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart and when all was said and done come the start of September, Tottenham had made a net spend of around only £500,000.
And if we cast our minds back to the start of the calendar year and the ill-fated January transfer window that Spurs endured, there’s still around £8million of Roman Pavlyuchenko shaped money that was never eventually spent. There is a school of thought suggesting that while the funds were there to be invested, Levy was perhaps reluctant to hand then manager Harry Redknapp a transfer warchest. Rightly or wrongly, if that warchest still remains, then Andre Villas-Boas could certainly do with seeing it next month.
This isn’t to accuse Levy for five minutes of hiding any money down the White Hart Lane sofas. The club are turning over near enough £100million less than both their league and local rivals Arsenal. While Spurs profited from their Champions League adventure a couple of years ago, so did their players, with the wage bill hopping up £24million from 2010 to 2011. While many from that squad have since moved on, the club is still paying many Champions League wages, without actually playing in the competition.
Throw in the nice new contract Gareth Bale earned in the summer, £6.5million in agents fees since October 2011, an untold amount on signing on fees as well as legal/planning costs surrounding the failed Olympic Stadium bid and the NDP and it’s hardly as if there is some mythical amount of buried treasure kicking around N17.
Yet come deadline day on the summer transfer window, many supporters were glued to their phones and televisions waiting to hear news upon the protracted transfer of Joao Moutinho from Porto. The move eventually collapsed, but had it gone ahead, it would have been to the tune of £22million; a transfer record for the club that would have blown their recent frugal economic policy in terms of player recruitment out the water.
If Levy was prepared to sanction such a deal last August, then he must ensure that money is available for Andre Villas-Boas to spend as he wishes in the January transfer window.
No one is either expecting nor wanting the club to live outside of its means, but there can be no more smoke and mirrors like posturing in terms of player recruitment. Tottenham must strengthen their campaign on all fronts next month, not weaken it as they did at this time last season. If the warchest really was hidden from Redknapp last January, Daniel Levy must give it to Villas-Boas this January. If he doesn’t, then we perhaps gain a far better idea to quite how bare the coffers are in the white half of North London.