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
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