What is behind Spurs’ incoherent transfer policy?

It’s long been said that there are two kinds of owners (or chairmen) in football. There are those for whom money is no object and the only object worth pondering is silverware. Then there are those for whom money is not only an object but an obstacle. The former are the sportsmen and the latter are the business people.

Examples of the former are clearly Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich or Manchester City’s Sheikh Mansour. In the latter is nearly every other owner or chair person in the Premier League. Money used to flow into clubs and world-class players would follow with massive salaries and the top four was nearly guaranteed. Financial Fair Play was meant to level the playing field and allow for more competition throughout the table as well as to protect clubs from receivership. Whether that has succeeded or not is wide open for debate.

One interesting aside is that the Glazer Family of Manchester United has been labeled both the best and worst business people in the Premier League. While they did purchase the club in a massive leveraged buyout and continue to pay down that debt they are still able to spend massive sums of cash all but guaranteeing a top four finish.

So while Financial Fair Play can indeed make the accounting a little more difficult it is still possible to virtually buy up the ladder. That has not traditionally been the Tottenham Spurs’ way, however. Chairman, Daniel Levy, has traditionally played the game like a classic businessman. He’ll sell mega-million pound players like Gareth Bale (£86 million) and then bring in a raft of players in the £10-15 million range as opposed to splashing for one lone word-class player.

This suits manager, Mauricio Pochettino, well. His preference is well aligned as he too would rather rely on player development to help the club challenge for upper level positions rather than merely throwing cash. While he has not heavily relied upon academy players, who can be great assets as well as a profit centre, he has vowed to make better use of them this season and in the near future.

Part of the reason for the frugality is because the club are very focused on building a new stadium. The 61,000 seat stadium will be the largest in London and will boast many state of the art features included providing one of the most internet connected fan experiences available yet today. Not only will it be the home of Tottenham Hotspurs but it is also expected to host dedicated facilities for the American National Football League (that comes with an oval shaped ball instead of a round one – very different sport).

All of this points to increased matchday revenue but even more importantly a move-in ready jewel in London. Homebuyers are often finicky and they want a home to be move-in ready yet at the same time have one or two items that need upgrading and hence they will be able to readily add value. Such is likely the case here. A beautiful new stadium with enhanced revenue means increased asset value. The fact the club has not cracked the top four since 2011/12 means a new owner could come in splash some cash and make a run toward the top. Tottenham is a top-class acquisition target.

How then, does that impact this year’s transfer window? So far the club have brought in Kevin Trippier (£3.5m), Kevin Wimmer (£4.3m), Toby Alderweireld (£11.5m) and Clinton N’Jie (£12.2m). Spurs are also reportedly after Bayer Leverkusen’s Heung-Min Son (for a sub £20 million contract representing a potentially very smart move for the striker) and Yannick Bolasie (for nearly £25 million contract representing an extravagant acquisition) and possibly Saido Berahino although rumours there are now going cold.  All of this is consistent with a club content to stay well within the Fair Play Regulations whilst building a state-of-the art stadium that is sure to be a stunner and managing the internal affairs with aplomb (Daniel Levy just awarded himself a £500,00/year pay rise).

None of that except perhaps the new stadium is likely to make Spurs’ fans happy.

But look at it this way, the team is a joy to watch on the pitch and even more importantly, remember that Newcastle has also been a well-run club and Spur’s fans certainly don’t have to worry about having a season like the Magpies’ last one!


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