In one of Tottenham Hotspur's strangest summers to date, the transfer window closed without the club having made a single signing. This is unprecedented for any club since the inception of the transfer window in 2003, leaving a large sect of Spurs fans feeling abandoned by club chairman and notoriously tough negotiator, Daniel Levy. Even as Tottenham’s opening game against Newcastle imminently approaches, questions still hang heavy over the club around what transpired behind the scenes over the course of the window.
For lots of Spurs fans, the new 62,062-seater stadium signalled a change in approach at Tottenham. Once notorious for selling key players and falling short of the mark in club competitions, the nearly £1 billion invested into the new stadium seemed a statement of intent from Spurs. Along with Erik Lamela, Davinson Sanchez, Michel Vorm, Heung-min Son, and club favourite Harry Kane, manager Mauricio Pochettino committed himself to a new 5-year contract with the club back in May. This began speculation that Pochettino was due to be handed a £150 million transfer ‘war-chest’ as a sign of the board’s commitment to his project. It quickly became apparent that this sort of spending wasn’t going to happen, with Spurs being priced out of moves for Ryan Sessegnon, Matthijs de Ligt, Wilfried Zaha, and wantaway Anthony Martial. Young Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish emerged as a surprise target, eventually the only player being seriously linked with Spurs come deadline day.
It is the apparent way Tottenham conducted these negotiations that exposes the flaws in Daniel Levy’s negotiating tactics, and perhaps larger problems with the club transfer policy. Reports emerged in the final hours of the window that Grealish was unhappy with Villa for not accepting Tottenham’s offer. But Villa aren't the club Jack Grealish should resent, it's Tottenham.
There is something in letting a transfer run to the deadline, a chance for negotiating leverage, but how must have the player concerned feel? The pressure falls on them to either force a move by disrespecting their current club, or concede the idea that they are not worth that much to the buying side. There have been numerous articles published recently about how Grealish must be feeling, but in fact Villa were open to a transfer, right up until they weren't. This seemed to occur on August 8, when it became painfully clear that Spurs were failing to meet Villa's valuation as the clock ran down, to pressure them into conceding the player’s sale. Spurs tend to strong-arm the selling team into accepting a marginally lower bid than expected, but Villa called Daniel Levy's bluff, and instead opted to offer Grealsih an improved contract.
This is a familiar situation to Spurs fans, but its entirely uncharted waters to sign no one at all. Some fans were outraged with the club, some pleased the likes of star players Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembélé were kept at the club. But the repercussions of this strange choice will not truly be felt until Tottenham’s campaign begins again. A strong start to the Premier League and Champions’ League group stage could prove the current personnel have banded together to step up a level in their new stadium, but a poor run of form may reignite the uproar around a lacking investment into the first team.
As a Tottenham fan that has admired Levy for his business acumen over the years, I begin to worry that clubs are now simply refusing to negotiate with him specifically. There seems to be a limit to which clubs can handle his bargaining, with most opting to conduct their business earlier in the window. A similar change in policy might result in unwise financial outlay for Spurs, though allowing players the time to settle in to a new environment could drastically impact their form going into the season.
For all the back and forth between fans on social media as to what exactly the problem is, one figure at the club still seems to unite opinion for Spurs fans. Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine is adored by a clear majority of fans, for his commitment to bringing Spurs silverware with flair and style. If there ever was something Spurs fans could agree on, it is that Pochettino wants to win trophies with the club, for as long as possible. However, it is hard to argue that this goal could not be best achieved if Pochettino had similar spending capabilities to the likes of Manchester City or Liverpool.
Pochettino has reiterated absolute faith in his current squad’s mentality and ability, also stressing that the club has laid out over £1 billion this year to make Tottenham’s facilities and stadium world-class. But this can only take the squad so far, and The Tottenham Hotspur Supporter’s Trust has asked for an explanation from the board as to the lack of any movement in the transfer market. This could also prove key in raising the fans’ opinion of Daniel Levy, opening the door for a more transparent relationship between the club and its supporters.
Perhaps once the stadium is complete and debts are paid, the board might begin supplying the manager funding for word-class transfers. The problem is that time waits for no one. By the time that day comes, Mauricio Pochettino may no longer be manager of Tottenham Hotspur, and Tottenham may have missed their chance to make that massive final step to the top.
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