Trans­fer strat­egy leaves tick­ing time bomb for Tot­ten­ham

Club have kept their star play­ers, but at what cost to chair­man Daniel Levy, asks Matt Law

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport / Football -

Chris­tian Erik­sen laid bare the frus­tra­tion within the group of Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur play­ers who have spent the sum­mer wait­ing to find out their futures by ad­mit­ting that he wished he could have taken charge of it on the Foot­ball Man­ager video game.

But Erik­sen, along with Toby Alder­weireld and Jan Ver­tonghen, who have also en­tered the fi­nal 12 months of their con­tracts, have backed chair­man Daniel Levy into a cor­ner.

While Erik­sen may not have won the move to Spain he de­sired this sum­mer, he can start to ne­go­ti­ate a free trans­fer with over­seas clubs in Jan­uary. Alder­weireld and Ver­tonghen are in the same po­si­tion of strength.

Levy can, of course, try to ne­go­ti­ate new con­tracts with the trio be­fore then, but he is no longer in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion. Erik­sen’s agent has been re­fus­ing to dis­cuss a new con­tract since his client went pub­lic on his de­sire to seek a new chal­lenge in June.

Per­haps Erik­sen and his agent faced sim­i­lar prob­lems to Kieran Trip­pier, who this week re­vealed he could not get a straight an­swer from Levy over his fu­ture be­fore join­ing Atletico Madrid for a fee of £20 mil­lion.

Erik­sen told Dan­ish news­pa­per Ek­stra Bladet that he did not re­gret mak­ing his feel­ings clear, but ad­mit­ted he was ul­ti­mately pow­er­less to force through a move.

“I wish I could de­cide my­self, like you can do in the [com­puter game] Foot­ball Man­ager, but I can’t do that sadly,” said Erik­sen. “I don’t think it was wrong [to say that it was time for a new chal­lenge]. But this is foot­ball and you never know what hap­pens in foot­ball. A lot of things play a part.”

Erik­sen ac­knowl­edged that the later clo­sure of the Euro­pean trans­fer win­dow had placed man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino in a “s--- sit­u­a­tion”, but in­sisted he did not know why he had not started Tot­ten­ham’s games against Aston Villa and New­cas­tle United.

Af­ter Erik­sen had re­turned to

the start­ing line-up for the draw with Arse­nal, Po­chet­tino said the for­eign win­dow clos­ing would bring sta­bil­ity to his squad, yet more un­cer­tainty is brew­ing.

Danny Rose was left off the pre-sea­son tour of Asia to try to ne­go­ti­ate a move and yet he, too, has stayed and the left-back now has just un­der two years left on his con­tract. Eric Dier and Moussa Sis­soko also have deals that ex­pire in 2021, and it is hard to imag­ine why any would sign ex­ten­sions.

Levy thought he had ne­go­ti­ated a £12mil­lion fee with Club Brugge for Vic­tor Wanyama, which would have rep­re­sented ex­cel­lent business for a mid­fielder who has

‘Peo­ple have tired of Daniel Levy’s ne­go­ti­at­ing. You try not to deal with him if you don’t have to’

suf­fered in­jury prob­lems and is an­other whose con­tract runs only un­til the sum­mer of 2021.

But Wanyama called the bluff of both Levy and Brugge by, ac­cord­ing to sources in Bel­gium, ask­ing for more money from ei­ther party. Levy re­fused, pre­sum­ably think­ing Brugge would be forced to pay it, but they in­stead signed Eder Balanta from Basel.

There is lit­tle chance of Levy find­ing a club will­ing to pay any­where near £12mil­lion for 28-year-old Wanyama in ei­ther Jan­uary or next sum­mer.

While there have been high­pro­file ex­cep­tions, in­clud­ing right-backs Kyle Walker and Trip­pier, Levy has found it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to sell want­away or un­wanted play­ers for the high prices he has tra­di­tion­ally de­manded. This is not a trend that is ex­clu­sive to Spurs, as demon­strated by the increase in pop­u­lar­ity of clubs tak­ing play­ers on loan with the op­tion or obli­ga­tion to buy them.

But Levy has, in many ways, be­come a vic­tim of his own suc­cess. One in­dus­try ex­pert with vast ex­pe­ri­ence of the Pre­mier League and Euro­pean trans­fer mar­kets told The Daily Tele­graph: “I think the ne­go­ti­at­ing or ‘squeez­ing’ that brought Levy his en­vi­able rep­u­ta­tion is now back­fir­ing. No­body wants to look a fool and all chief ex­ec­u­tives now want to be recog­nised as ne­go­ti­at­ing wizards. Porto are also suf­fer­ing and are sell­ing cheaper to get back in business af­ter years of ar­ro­gantly dip­ping into every big club’s pocket.”

An­other Pre­mier League trans­fer chief added: “Many peo­ple have tired of Daniel Levy’s ne­go­ti­at­ing. If you don’t have to deal with him, then you try not to.”

There was a time when Tot­ten­ham were the go-to club for the rich to sign their star play­ers and the rest to stump up for their cast-offs.

It is thanks to Levy and the in­cred­i­ble de­vel­op­ment of the club that Spurs are no longer forced to sell their best play­ers, but greater com­pe­ti­tion from abroad has meant there are not so many tak­ers for those who are made avail­able.

Over re­cent years, Monaco, Ajax and Lyon have all be­come suc­cess­ful trad­ing clubs. The £68mil­lion Barcelona paid for 22-year-old Frenkie de Jong is around half what Levy orig­i­nally val­ued 27-year-old Erik­sen at with just a year on his con­tract.

Trip­pier on Mon­day joked that his price would have been £30mil­lion higher if he had wanted to stay in Eng­land and it felt like he was hold­ing back from go­ing into the full de­tails when he said: “I tried to speak to the chair­man about it [my fu­ture] and I didn’t re­ally get an an­swer.”

Po­chet­tino can breathe a sigh of re­lief that the Euro­pean win­dow is shut, but Levy knows more tough ques­tions are ahead and he is no longer in charge of the an­swers.

Happy for now: Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino is glad Europe’s trans­fer win­dow is shut

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