Upon browsing the news online today, it became clear that revisionist history is not a concept confined to the world of academia. The Daily Telegraph and the Sun, in response to the comments made by former Tottenham Hotspur director of football Damien Comolli, have both published articles offering a revised appraisal of relative success of the man once ‘vilified’ (to quote the Sun) at White Hart Lane.
For those that have not yet read Comolli’s comments, the 37 year old Frenchman sounds genuinely pleased for the Lillywhite half of North London after back to back victories over Arsenal and Chelsea. Comolli told the Sun:
“I don’t think of this as some sort of revenge that the players we bought are doing so well – I’m very pleased it has worked out.
“I said this would be the first team to have been bottom in October that could go on and qualify for Europe and they nearly did.
“I give Harry full credit for adding a resilience which wasn’t there before but he had very good players to work with.
“I was very disappointed to have lost my job, I still am. I was in love with the club.”
Whilst there is a subtle hint of ‘I told you so’ in his words, Comolli’s purchases have certainly appeared, rather belatedly, to have come good. In an interesting piece written by Duncan White of the Daily Telegraph, White highlights that of the team that started and defeated Arsenal and Chelsea in the Premier League this month, no fewer than seven had been signed by Damien Comolli. It thus raises the question; was Damien Comolli really a failure at White Hart Lane?
Let us consider some of Comolli’s signings. Gareth Bale has become one of the best left fullback/wingers in the country (or Europe if we believe some of the hyperbole), whilst Benoit Assou-Ekotto has generally proven himself a capable defender in the Premier League. Younes Kaboul has improved dramatically after attaining first team experience at Portsmouth, and Luka Modric is proving his worth equally from the left of midfield or in the centre. Roman Pavlyuchenko, perhaps most surprisingly, has managed to turn his Tottenham career around, and now appears to be first choice in attack. The signing of Heurelho Gomes could be the best of the bunch however, his rapid improvement so marked, he is considered one of the league’s best goalkeepers at present.
Damien Comolli’s time at Tottenham thus looks less like a blot on the Frenchman’s curriculum vitae and more a confirmation of the man’s expertise. However, a closer analysis arguably delivers a more damning appraisal of Comolli’s achievements at Tottenham.
Comolli was brought to Spurs to unearth hidden gems. At Arsenal, Comolli was famed for signing Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue and Gael Clichy for pittance. However, whilst Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto were relatively unknown to the laymen in England, they still cost Spurs over £11m to buy. Luka Modric, although just 22 when he signed for Tottenham, was already renowned in Europe, as was Roman Pavlyuchenko, and they cost Tottenham around £30m in transfer fees. Gareth Bale was one of the hottest prospects in England when Spurs swooped, and whilst Comolli deserves credit for selling the club to the youngster, his signature was hardly a stroke of genius scouting. Further, Spurs are still waiting for other youngsters Comolli brought in (Danny Rose, John Bostock and Dean Parrett et al) to reach the first team.
Comolli oversaw a huge turnover of players during his tenure at White Hart Lane, and generally Tottenham got their money back even on acquisitions deemed relative failures. One of Comolli’s most obvious coups in the transfer market was the £10.9m signing of Dimitar Berabtov. Berbatov made Daniel Levy £20m pure profit, and was thus a shrewd piece of business by Comolli.
However, in Darren Bent (£16.5m), Alan Hutton (£8m), David Bentley (£15-17m) and Jonathan Woodgate (£7.5m) (Woodgate’s career appears severely threatened by injury) the £20m profit Comolli made on Berbatov is probably balanced out by the losses Tottenham have, or will make on these players.
A further consideration that must be highlighted is that, contrary to the reports demonising Daniel Levy for the sacking of Martin Jol, Comolli was very much involved in both the Dutchman’s departure and the search for his successor. Juande Ramos was appointed on the recommendation of Comolli, and Comolli therefore set the club back dramatically by getting the appointment so very wrong. The compensation the club paid to both Jol and Ramos, and the amount Levy then spent on compensating Portsmouth for Harry Redknapp, equated to approximately £12m. Spurs were a shambolic mess by the time Ramos left the club, and Comolli was as culpable as anybody.
Redknapp’s statement upon his arrival, that the Tottenham squad was a ‘mish-mash’, was perfectly true. Comolli had failed to replace the outgoing Berbatov and Robbie Keane in attack. Tottenham’s most obvious shortcoming in the centre of midfield, where Comolli had failed to replace the ineffective Didier Zakora, also left Spurs a soft touch in the game’s most vital area. Further, whilst King and Woodgate remain quality centre halves, both were, and are, ticking time bombs in terms of fitness.
The spine of Tottenham’s side this season (Heurelho Gomes, Michael Dawson, Wilson Palacios, Tom Huddlestone and Jermain Defoe) includes just one Comolli signing; the goalkeeper. Had Redknapp not signed the likes of Bassong, Palacios and Defoe, the side would still be too unbalanced to challenge the top four, whilst Dawson, Huddlestone, King and Lennon et al, were not Comolli purchases.
Duncan White’s aforementioned article in the Daily Telegraph raises some interesting points about how Tottenham will continue to develop their youth policy without the guidance of a technical director equipped with Comolli’s expertise and experience. Comolli worked especially hard on the Tottenham academy, and turned it into arguably one of the best in the country. Aside from undertaking the initiative to build a new training complex, Tottenham have some very talented youngsters in Danny Rose, John Bostock, Andros Townsend, Dean Parrett, Paul-José M’Poku and Jon Obika. However, although Rose scored a screamer in the North London derby, only time will tell on the astuteness of Comolli’s young signings, as none have gotten close to consistent first team appearances.
Tottenham have a young, exciting team, and in Bale and Modric, Tottenham have two extremely viable assets. Therefore, is it fair to argue that history should remember Comolli’s time in North London as a relative success? Were supporters and the media alike too blinkered too see the bigger picture? In a word, no.
Historical revisionism may at present be kind to Comolli after the week the likes of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric have just had. However for those that witnessed the Martin Jol and Juande Ramos debacle, they’ll take ‘Arry over Comolli every day of the week.
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Below is the list of players signed byDamien Comolli believed to have cost Tottenham over £1m, starting with the most recent…
1. Vedran Corluka, Manchester City, £8.5m
2. Roman Pavlyuchenko, Spartak Moscow, £14m
3. Cesar Sanchez, Real Zaragoza, Undisclosed
4. David Bentley, Blackburn Rovers, £15m-17m
5. Heurelho Gomes, PSV Eindhoven, £9m
6. Giovani dos Santos, Barcelona, £4.7m
7. Luka Modric, Dinamo Zagreb, £15.8m
8. Gilberto, Hertha Berlin £1.9m
9. Alan Hutton, Glasgow Rangers, £8m
10. Jonathan Woodgate, Middlesbrough, £7.5m
11. Chris Gunter, Cardiff City, £2m
12. Kevin-Prince Boateng, Hertha Berlin, £5.2m
13. Danny Rose, Leeds United, Undisclosed
14. Younes Kaboul, Auxerre, £8.2m
15. Darren Bent, Charlton Athletic, £16.5m
16. Adel Taarabt, RC Lens, Undisclosed
17. Gareth Bale, Southampton, £5m – £10m
18. Ben Alnwick, Sunderland, Undisclosed
19. Ricardo Rocha, Benfica, £3,5m
20. Mido, AS Roma, £4m
21. Pascal Chimbonda, Wigan Athletic, £4m
22. Steed Malbranque, Fulham, £3.5m
23. Didier Zokora, St Etienne, £6.5m
24. Benoit Assou-Ekotto, RC Lens, £3.5m
25. Dimitar Berbatov, Bayer Leverkusen, £10.9m
26. Hossam Ghaly, Feyernoord, Undisclosed
27. Danny Murphy, Charlton, £2m