Hate it or love it, it’s almost Levy Time

Daniel Levy at the New York Stock Exchange
With only 7 days to go until our season opener against Newcastle the squad at André Villas-Boas’ disposal still shows concerning deficiencies.

It’s not an uncommon phenomenon. The pre-season is coming to a close yet Spurs still have to do their most important transfer dealings. Deadline day and especially the final few hours are known as ‘Levy Time’.

Our elusive chairman is known for being a tough negotiator. He’s often praised for having a knack for getting the best deal for Spurs when selling players but is equally loathed for his perceived tight nature when it comes to shelling out for top quality players. It’s fair to say he keeps the purse strings firmly in check.

It’s hard to tell what kind of budget he’s working with. There are always rumours that any incoming transfers are dependent on outgoing transfers. Yet we’ve already spent about £18m on Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson whilst we’ve only sold Steven Pienaar, Vedran Corluka and Niko Kranjcar.

Sigurdsson, Villas-Boas, Vertonghen

Promising start. Sigurdsson and Vertonghen arrived early but it’s been quiet since.

Despite those early dealings our squad looks very thin and is lacking quality in key areas. At the same time other areas of the squad are filled with players who are surplus to requirements or who are simply not good enough to warrant a place on the club’s wage bill.

Summer clearout

There has been some additional clean-up on the wage bill after both Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen were released, and Ledley King sadly had to retire, but there are still a lot of players on there who I can’t see making a significant contribution to next season’s campaign. Players like Jenas, Bassong and Bentley have been at the club for a number of seasons yet never managed to prove themselves as starting XI players or even regular substitutes.

Villas-Boas gave everyone a clean slate during pre-season and all the aforementioned players were given playing time, yet it becomes clear that they will not be first or second choice in their positions. Why keep them on if they are not vital to the manager’s plans? Don’t we have young and talented players who could fill the void if we sell those players on?

If you look at young players like Tom Carroll and Andros Townsend it’s clear they have the hunger and determination to stake their claim to earn a place in AVB’s plans. From a financial point of view it makes total sense to promote Academy players and part ways with more senior players who weigh down heavy on the current wage bill.

Both Levy and Villas-Boas are known for being firm believers in either signing or developing young players to form a squad that has the hunger and the room to excel whilst playing a certain kind of football. Judging by the performances in pre-season it seems the younger players are more receptive and suited to Villas-Boas’ style of play than the senior fringe players. They move the ball quicker, are familiar with playing a high pressing game and know how to play a short and fast-paced passing game.

Right now investing in key areas of our starting XI should be top priority. If that means we have to sell fringe players and throw some youngsters in the deep end so be it. Last season must be perfect evidence that giving young players like Walker and Livermore playing time helps them to develop into solid squad players, and in Walker’s case even make a great addition to the starting XI.

The Modric Saga – part 282 and 1/2

Just like last season the little Croatian playmaker seems to be the biggest headache on Levy’s mind. Luka’s heart is clearly not into it anymore so selling seems to be the best solution for both parties. Real Madrid know this too and are trying to push ‘the little club’ about by using the Spanish press and some ‘player whispering’ to unsettle the player and force Spurs’ hand in the negotiations.

“Tough luck cause we have Daniel Levy,” would be the initial response by most Spurs fans. To some extent I agree, but on the other hand the market for Luka Modric is considerably small because Spurs are adamant they don’t want to sell to Premier League competitors. This left Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain until a week ago. Now it seems PSG ruled themselves out after spending absolutely mental money (approximately €45m) on Brazilian youngster Lucas Moura.

I’m not saying we should just take the latest offer we’ve received from Los Merengues but holding out for £40m is simply waiting for disaster.

Modric knuckled down last season but I hold no hope whatsoever that he will do the same this time. He’s been waiting to move for over 10 months and surely he will never perform to his full capability for Spurs if we hold on to him for another season.

Luka is a great player – although his stats often fail to paint the full picture – but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a midfield playmaker move for over £35m apart from Zidane and Kaká. In recent times Fabregas and Mata moved for around £25-30m, but brilliant players like Mesut Özil (€15m from Werder Bremen to Real Madrid) and Wesley Sneijder (€27m from Ajax to Real Madrid, €15m from Real to Inter) have moved for considerably less. The only argument to justify the £40m asking price is that Modric still has a contract at Spurs until 2016.

Levy might have worked absolute miracles by selling Pienaar back to Everton for more money than we paid for him and getting about £6m for Kranjcar, but the same bluffing game is not going to fly at the high rollers table. Holding out for 10-20% more is fine in most cases but if we’re talking about £30m+ moves you’re pushing your luck.

What money?

Clearly we need to re-invest the majority of the money of a potential Modric sale in a replacement, with Porto’s João Moutinho the outstanding candidate. Porto won’t part ways with their playmaker at a bargain price either but surely £25m would seal the deal, especially with Moutinho eager to link up with former Porto manager André Villas-Boas. But for now it seems Spurs are balking at the fee quoted by Porto.

That’s why it doesn’t make sense. If Levy is so adamant Modric will cost £40m it makes it difficult to make £25m sound like a good deal to Porto when Moutinho’s buyout clause is around £31.5m. If we stand firm and ask £40m for Modric, how can we expect Porto to agree to sell at a lower fee than the buyout clause? You can’t expect other clubs to compromise on their asking price when you don’t want to budge on the valuation of your own player.

Moutinho

Time to say goodbye? Moutinho is the primary candidate to replace Modric.

Spurs can’t play stupid and say there’s no funds because there’s been plenty of money flowing back into the club through players sales. The club also made some bad investments in players like Roman Pavlyuchenko and David Bentley, but overall there seems to be a healthy balance between transfer revenue and expenditures. Since we signed Modric for £16m from Dinamo Zagreb anything over £30m will yield a spectacular profit margin. The same happened with players like Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick.

Spurs prides itself as an ambitious club aiming for Champions League so it should expect increasing transfer costs if it wants to move to a higher standard of signings. We can’t expect to get top players at discount prices. We got lucky in the case of Van der Vaart but a miracle deal like that might happen once every 4 years. Haggling to the very end when signings players will eventually cost us.

Double-edged sword

The astute nature of our transfer dealings and the negotiation style of Daniel Levy and his team have proved to be a double-edged sword. We often get the best deal when selling players and sometimes get lucky with a once-in-a-lifetime bargain signing. On the other hand the constant haggling and unwillingness to pay premium prices will eventually prove to cost us more than the potential savings on transfer spending.

We’ve failed to sign a top class striker for 3 windows straight. Although you can never say this with 100% certainty it is highly likely this has cost us Champions League qualification at least once in the last two seasons. The margins at the top are so small. 5 goals could make the difference between a 4th and 5th place finish. 1 goal could make the difference between finishing 3rd or 4th.

You only have to have a look down the road and see how one goalscorer can carry a mediocre and inconsistent team over the finish line.

Everyone knows we are no Manchester City or Chelsea and that White Hart Lane’s capacity is somewhat of a bottleneck, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot, and should not do business in a more straightforward and especially more timely fashion.

Most things in life are about timing and the same goes for transfers. Sometimes you have to move quick, sometimes you have to drag it out till the final minute. At Spurs it seems the latter has been the case on too many occasions.

If you sack a manager who finishes 4th you simply cannot expect the new man at the helm to emulate those results without addressing clear-cut deficiencies in certain areas of the squad up until the last day of the transfer window. You either back the manager with sufficient funds to reach the ambitious goals that were set, or you don’t strengthen the squad at all and watch your team slip back into places just above mid-table mediocrity.

We do not have to chuck silly money at players just to get a deal done just as equally we don’t have to burn bridges with clubs by absolutely negotiating things down to the wire to get a player. Levy Time will probably stick around for quite some time, but let’s hope that the urgency and importance of those deadline deals will decline in the future.

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Dutch Spurs fan, football connoisseur and ambassador of free-flowing attacking football.

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2 comments on “Hate it or love it, it’s almost Levy Time
  1. Prithvi says:

    Interesting article. Agree with you in most of the points.

  2. cjh says:

    Excellent article Stephan!! Special Yid!!