Chelsea’s attempts to purchase Luka Modric this summer were thwarted by the immovable resistance of Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy. In what may appear to be a watershed moment for the club, manager Harry Redknapp has come out in favour of offering the want-away midfielder a new and improved contract – but has the club’s refusal to pay six-figure weekly-wages held them back from regularly dining at Europe’s top table?
Daniel Levy certainly made a point when he refused Chelsea’s final offer of £40m for Modric. Not even the influential Croat’s biggest fans could testify to the player’s ability being worth anything close to that astronomical sum.
Levy was unwilling to sell, no matter what the price. While his stance can be said to have been an admirable display of unwavering willpower, putting an end to the bullyboy tactics of the league’s top three in the process, was it the smartest of moves given the potential payday? Redknapp’s stance, rather predictably in the face of all that money, weakened as the window progressed, yet still, Levy stood firm.
It appeared that Levy’s stance was in part affected by his previous misdemeanours in selling off crowd favourites Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov to Man Utd when they came calling. His refusal to do business should be seen as an admission of guilt for past sins rather than just another example of the bloody-minded business decisions that have become Levy’s staple during his spell at the club. This stance looked to be one made entirely with the heart rather than the head – something most Spurs fans wished he’d have shown a lot more of in the past.
Spurs have represented something of a frustrating presence in the league the past two seasons. For a club seemingly on the cusp of a golden period, they still seem to fall just short of what’s required to truly challenge for the title. Some will rather understandably point to Redknapp’s tactical ineptitude at the highest level, others will contend that it’s the club’s refusal to make a signing that comes with a statement of intent.
Modric’s move to Chelsea looked to be one that was set to follow a familiar pattern. Firstly, the club refuses to sell. Then it harps on about how they’re never going to sell such a key player and how important said player is to their future ambitions. Player’s price is then driven up, usually way above what they’re realistically worth. Clubs then somehow appear, amidst all the stirring rhetoric, to come to a deal that benefits both parties and the player moves on. It’s a well-worn routine that Levy simply refused to partake in this time.
However, it’s worth remembering during the club’s frantic trolly dash at the end of the January transfer window last season, as they searched for what appeared to be the final and elusive ingredient to their title hopes – a quality striker – that the club were willing to part with some serious money for the right player.
Figures around the £30m mark were bandied about for fantastic players such as Guiseppe Rossi, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo. Not to mention that the likes of Sergio Aguero, Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan and Karim Benzema were reportedly inquired about.
But, like with most of Redknapp’s plans, it was done with such a half-hearted focus for nearly the entire transfer window and was only pursued with any real purpose in the dying embers of the window. Their lack of success in pursuing such big transfer targets so late on cannot be said to have been a surprise, as they left the clubs in question little to no time to find a suitable replacement – something Levy learned to his cost with the Berbatov to Man Utd deal.
Returning to the point at hand – has the club’s refusal to go down the same path as league rivals Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea in terms of speculating on astronomical wages cost them dearly in catching up?
Spurs have rarely caught the imagination when it comes to signings, barring perhaps the fortunate eleventh-hour purchase of Rafael Van Der Vaart for a bargain £8m last season. For a club of undoubted wealth, they have been run in a straightforward and responsible manner by the business-minded Levy for some time now.
Levy has always desired that Spurs become regulars among Europe’s elite, but has so far refused to gamble on the club’s financial future in order to do so. Canny deals such as Emmanuel Adebayor’s loan deal from City, whereby Spurs pay just over 40% of his £170,000 a-week wages, have become the norm.
But in order for the club to push on, while maintaining the quality that they have within their squad, they may have to speculate to accumulate in the transfer market. The top four has never been this unsettled. There is a spot wide open, just waiting for a club with the right ambition to grab it with both hands.
The correlation between those clubs that pay the largest wages and success on the pitch is both an obvious one and yet an approach which is fraught with risk for less established sides. Spurs do not have a hugely wealthy owner to fall back on.
In order to keep the likes of Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart from seeking pastures new, you have to pay them accordingly, while simultaneously seeking to regularly recruit players of a similar quality. Redknapp stated when quizzed about a potential new deal for Modric that: “You can’t say he is worth £40m then pay him the wags of someone worth £5m. You have to look after the boy.”
It may open the floodgates in terms of the club’s wage structure, but it looks to be a gamble worth taking. This current Spurs side lacks strength in depth in some areas, but as a standalone first-eleven, it ranks right up there as one of the best in the league. Breaking through into the top four should also feature a permanent realignment of their finances to those that exemplify and illustrate a club with top four ambitions.
Shopping around the bargain bin and banking on future potential should be consigned to the past. Levy’s power struggle with Chelsea, which saw the usual player-power take a back seat, has to be capitalised upon.
Spurs failed to recruit a striker when it mattered most last season, an error of judgement that ultimately cost them dearly down the home straight. Levy simply cannot afford to let another opportunity to expand such as this pass him by again. Modric‘s extended stay at the club should not be treated as a one-off moment of resolve, it should be seen as the dawning of a new era. Loosening the purse strings may set a precedent, but it’s likely to be one that Europe’s finest sit up and take note of as Spurs sit on the precipice of reaching the next level.
You can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1
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