In three of the past five summer transfer windows, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy’s famed and admirable tough negotiating stance has led to a poor start to the season for his club on the pitch. This time around he has learned from his mistakes.
Levy stubbornly refused to sign off on the sales of Dimitar Berbatov and Luka Modric until they were on his own terms in transfer sagas that dragged on until the last embers of the window and consumed all of the club’s attention. The same stance has been taken this time around with the biggest deal of them all, but crucially this time he has taken a proactive approach to the club’s transfer dealings.
It now appears a matter of time before Gareth Bale is sold to Real Madrid for a record-breaking fee. Whether or not this is an outcome that Levy has long known, he has made sure that Tottenham are not caught short once more.
Almost £60 million has already been spent on bolstering a squad that missed out on Champions League qualification by a single point last season, with more deals reportedly in the pipeline. Tottenham now look set to be in a position that few fans would have envisaged at the start of the summer: with Bale having left, but the squad being stronger.
While Levy must take credit for instigating the business, technical director Franco Baldini has brought a new efficiency to the club’s transfer business that should make Tottenham’s neighbors across north London sit up and take notice. After lacking a top level center forward since the departure of Berbatov in 2008, Baldini helped to secure Spain international Roberto Soldado for a £26 million fee that Levy by himself would likely previously have balked at.
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Spurs also beat off competition to secure one of the players of the Confederations Cup in Paulinho, while Etienne Capoue and Nacer Chadli add depth to a squad that crucially lacked it last term. All those players were possibly necessary additions if Bale stayed, but the potential arrivals of Willian and Erik Lamela could well have Tottenham fans quickly forgetting about the man who struck so many crucial and spectacular goals last campaign.
Brazilian Willian has been in London undergoing a medical at Tottenham, although Chelsea are now thought to have made a late bid to lure the Brazilian to Stamford Bridge. With the stereotypical samba skills, the Anzhi Makhachkala attacking midfielder can provide that all-important wildcard quality to open up defenses in the final third.
The potential arrival of Lamela is equally exciting. The left-footed Roma attacker has the pace, skill and end product to suggest that he could very soon be at least on a par with the man Tottenham are set to cash-in on.
An attacking midfield three of Willian, Lamela and Chadli playing behind Soldado would arguably be as good as any attacking lineup in the Premier League. The likes of Aaron Lennon, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andros Townsend would provide further options. And if Willian does choose to hightail it across town to Stamford Bridge, Tottenham could well step up their interest in Lamela’s Roma teammate and talented playmaker Miralem Pjanic.
At the back too, Spurs are poised to strengthen. Whether part of the Bale deal or not, Fabio Coentrao looks likely to arrive from Real Madrid. While the Portugal international has not enjoyed the success he will have hoped at the Bernabeu, he is a quality operator who will offer far more than Benoit Assou-Ekotto or Danny Rose. An extra central defender is also being sought, with a move perhaps being reignited for Romania international Vlad Chirches from Steaua Bucharest.
It is a mouth-watering prospect for fans at White Hart Lane, if even the majority of those players are signed on the dotted line by the time September 3 rolls around. And with that level of investment, it is easy to understand Villas-Boas’ decision to reject reported advances from Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid this summer. With Levy and Baldini having done all they can, the gauntlet would then be thrown down to the young Portuguese coach to quickly turn his myriad of tantalizing ingredients into a winning recipe.
Their biggest star may be is on his way out, but Tottenham appear set to emerge stronger and with a realistic prospect of challenging right at the top of the Premier League until the climax of what promises to be an engrossing season.