You don’t have to be a fan of Tottenham Hotspur, as I have been most of my life, to know that a storm of criticism has engulfed Daniel Levy, Chairman and CEO of Spurs for the last 14 years, in the wake of a transfer window which ended with Levy’s failure to secure the transfer of Saido Berahino from somewhere called West Bromwich to White Hart Lane.
Levy, who has steered Spurs to only one trophy and a single season in the Champions League during his entire tenure, has a name for watching the pennies and for leaving his transfer deals to the last minute, an approach which his critics say is deeply flawed: it limits the choice of available players to those left on the shelf at the end of the window and costs the team points since the new players are not available for vital early games. This season Spurs have so far secured just two points – that is two draws – out of a possible nine, from three games and scored just two goals.
The challenge facing Levy was to recruit a striker to supplement Harry Kane in case of injury or bad form, as seems to be the case in the first three games. Hence the targeting of Berahino. The haggling with West Bromwich was fierce and has ended with the two teams offering widely differing accounts of the negotiations.
West Bromwich claimed that Spurs had offered to pay £6.5m in cash and the remaining £18.5m of the £25m fee in add-ons which would be paid if Berahino achieved certain results, such as international caps. In other words there was no guarantee that the full fee would ever be paid.
Spurs counter claim that an offer of £25m cash was made but rejected by West Bromwich’s pugnacious chairman, Jeffrey Peace, who maintained that Levy had left his offers far too late and they fell far short of what was necessary.
Spurs fans are in little doubt that Peace is giving the more truthful version. Levy has a track record of negotiating like this and too many in the media have been willing to credit the Spurs boss with qualities that are arguably quite stupid and counter productive. As usual the hacks have got the story wrong, some possibly in an effort to ingratiate themselves with Levy.
The sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid raised real questions about Levy’s knowledge of soccer and his eye for talent spotting. He used the £100m from the Bale sale to buy seven players, most of who have now been sold off for a loss after failing to deliver. Soccer pros say the difficulties of integrating seven new players in a pre-existing squad are almost insuperable and by going down this road, Levy made a basic amateurish mistake. He hired Franco Baldini to do the deals for him and clearly that proved to be a bad choice. Baldini has now been retired.
The real power at Spurs lies with a reclusive currency speculator and billionaire called Joe Lewis, a tax exile who spends most of his life on a luxury yacht somewhere in the Caribbean. Lewis, who owns a majority stake in ENIC, a holding company that owns Spurs, seems to regard Spurs not as a football team whose job is to win trophies or bring glory to the owner but as an investment vehicle. So transfers are scrutinised more for their implications for the Profit & Loss account than for the impact on the field.
To get back to the need for a new striker, which was the background to the drama.
During his 14 years in North London, Levy has hired ten managers and fired nine of them. His latest acquisition, Mauricio Pochettino, an former Argentine international and manager of Southampton, looked as if he was going to make a difference.
But to judge from the reports in the wake of the Berahino fiasco, it seems Spurs’ new manager is made of poor stuff, content to follow obediently in Levy’s path.
Compare and contrast the two stories below, the first that appeared about ten days ago, the second which appeared today. Very disappointing. Bodes ill for the season: