For the past two months or so one transfer story has attracted more attention than most and has come to dominate football headlines across Europe – the potential sale of Spurs ace – Luka Modric. Despite the desperate plea of manager Harry Redknapp and the love of the Tottenham faithful which has seen Modric scoop the supporters player of the season, it now seems inevitable he will leave with two important questions yet to be answered: destination and price. But let us go beyond the speculation and fanfare for a minute and consider the potential implications for the future of Tottenham Football Club.
Undoubtedly set to polarize opinion, there is a good argument to be made the departure of Luka will prove disastrous for Spurs in the long-run, potentially ending Harry’s long-term project of establishing Spurs as a top four club. After all Modric has played an instrumental role in the club’s recent success: gaining a top four finish, the first in the clubs illustrious history, with his best performances coming in several Champions League games this season beating the likes of Italian giants Inter Milan. Of course others will disagree, arguing as Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt has done that there is no place for unhappy or disloyal players at the club.
While this is true, it is by no means a solution to a problem that has dictated Tottenham’s past – the inability to maintain the loyalty of its best players when it really matters – and will continue to do so until a precedent is firmly set. This goes beyond the buzzword of modern football in my opinion – ‘player-power’ – as you don’t see ‘player power’ and all that it entails destroying the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and especially Liverpool, who have failed to reach the Champions League yet again. Yet you don’t see any of Liverpool’s household names calling for a transfer?
There is much more at stake here than losing Luka himself – Spurs are endanger of being branded a ‘feeder club’. The Tottenham manager has warned against conveying such an image telling skysports, “If Tottenham sell Luka then I feel it sends out a message that maybe Gareth Bale could leave and no one wants either to happen.” He is right to air such a concern as any Spurs fan will be all too aware of the inability to keep its best players: the transfer of Michael Carrick in the summer of 2006 and more recently in a British transfer record Dimitar Berbatov (£30.75 millon) both to Premier League Champions Manchester United. It is no surprise to anyone to read the champions are amongst the favorites to sign Modric this summer. Despite a dramatic change in fan opinion of both Carrick and Berbatov, Tottenham would be an elite outfit with both players at the club today.
There is no doubt Modric has the potential to become a world-class midfielder, you only have to look at the clubs who are interested in signing him – Chelsea, Inter and AC Milan and Manchester United and as Harry has commented, he is potentially ‘irreplaceable’, just as Carrick and Berbatov may have seemed at the time. So even if the shrewd business ethics of the Tottenham Chairman generates in excess of £30 million again, what kind of future will follow?
In the short-term, losing Modric will be disastrous. He is potentially a world-class midfielder with supreme technical ability and vision. Who is out there to replace such a talent that Tottenham could realistically attract as not only does selling your best players make others think twice about sticking around, it sends out a message to potential transfer targets of the highest caliber that the club has limited ambition. Not only these significant points – in letting Modric go, any potential successor to the midfield maestro could take several seasons to gel with his team mates and become accustomed to the rigors of Premier League football, just as Modric took at least a season to show his best. In saying this and remembering Spurs have failed to reach the top four this season gone, does Harry have another year to waste?.
Of course Spurs fans will argue the most coveted and lucrative fourth spot was not lost against the other top four clubs, with Spurs gaining results against Arsenal away, Liverpool away, and being robbed away at Chelsea, but in the disappointing results against lesser clubs such as Wigan, Wolves and Blackpool. But in selling Modric not only will this fail to instill a winning and competitive ethic, much needed to overcome tough opposition fighting the relegation battle it will diminish the chances of beating the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool in the coming seasons.
Harry Redknapp should be given the upmost credit for his media plea for Modric to stay, as it is much bigger than one player, Tottenham’s reputation and future rests upon the decision. If Tottenham aim to remain successful domestically it is time to set the precedent that they are not in the business of selling its best players and it is time for Chairman Daniel Levy to take some financial risks, spend big and hope for a future where loyalty can be maintained despite setbacks and ‘big club’ interest. A new club culture has to be moulded if Spurs are to recognize they are indeed a ‘big club’ themselves. The question of how this is to be achieved of course will go unanswered for now.
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