Daniel Levy seems to have upset a lot of people during his time at Spurs. On the most recent occasion, it was not after sacking a manager prematurely but was on an issue that, if anything, cuts even deeper with our fan base: our transfer policy. In a meeting with the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust he said: “THFC’s transfer comfort zone was with younger players around the £10m-15m price range and they would look to return to that policy.”
Back in the summer of 2013, Tottenham were at a crossroads. We received £85 million, a world record fee, for Gareth Bale and in a show of impressive ambition, broke our transfer record three times and recruited seven overseas stars who we hoped would become the backbone of our team and lead us back to the Champions League. Except they didn’t. Only two of these players have been any sort of success, so far. tThree managers have managed this particular group, with only slight improvement being seen now.
When the Levy quotes came out, many in our fan base were upset, something I understand. The feeling is that we should flog the failures and spend again on big exciting names which means we can start all over again with better players. But this will not work. The players necessary to make a difference on their own are out of our league in every way. We have to build a team, a unit, to succeed. But to do that we have to think ahead of everyone else.
The reality is that Daniel Levy is right. Tottenham are not going to get back to where we want to be by overspending on older stars or non Champions League talent. Looking back on it, £26 million on a 28 year old striker and £30 million on an unproven talent was a terrible policy, one that was potentially a recipe for disaster, which is exactly what happened. Daniel Levy has run this club astutely and successfully since the ENIC takeover. We are in a better place on and off the pitch, even if the last few years has seen progress stalled. Levy knows that the transfer policy that got us there is a major part of that success.
Some of our best players signed over the last 10 years are: Michael Carrick, 21 at the time, for £3.5 million.
Dimitar Berbatov, 25, for £10.9 million.
Gareth Bale, 17, for £10 million.
Luka Modric, 22, for £15.8 million.
Sandro, 21, for £6 million.
Benoit Assou Ekotto, 21, for £3.5 million.
Hugo Lloris, 25, for £11.8 million.
Christian Eriksen, 21, for £11.5 million.
Not every player signed with this approach has been a success, possibly less than half have, but when you look at it like this, it’s hard not to argue that this policy has been a large part of what has enabled us to improve over the last 10 years.
Our current manager Mauricio Pochettino divides fans, but the suggestion is most see he has improved us. Nikhil Saglani wrote a very encouraging piece (http://nikhilsaglani.com/tag/dortmund/) about how if we back Pochettino’s vision long term, we might see results like Jurgen Klopp did at Dortmund. I support this vision and I would point out that Klopp’s Dortmund recruited with a very similar policy.
The other aspect of what Klopp did was bringing through talent from the academy such as Mario Götze. Pochettino is the first manager to solidly use a base of our youth players as mainstays in his team – with Harry Kane, Danny Rose, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb key players. The next generation is even more exciting, and players like Harry Winks and Joshua Onomah will surely play their part next year. Giving these young players a chance will mean a core group of players who have been at the club from a very young age, love it and are steeped in the culture in all the best ways. Any team who has beaten the odds to succeed has done it through a solid base of youth.
So I’m saying we have to look back on our recent successes and failures to look forward. Levy is right; breaking transfer records on players who were not worth the price got us nowhere. Signing young vibrant exciting players, integrating them with our academy players and building a team that could not just excel in the short term, but going forward too, has proven to be successful for clubs in a similar position. Two years ago we abandoned this policy, and we have been paying the price ever since. Get it back up and running, and the future could look very bright indeed.