x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Tottenham's case of frugality may cost them Gareth Bale

Tottenham's absence from the Champions League could seal Bale's departure, and with that windfall club chairman Daniel Levy may need to rethink his transfer tactics, writes Richard Jolly.

Should Gareth Bale leave, the failure to secure the two points they needed to finish ahead of Arsenal will be a major talking point. Spending more may have resulted in a Champions League spot.
Should Gareth Bale leave, the failure to secure the two points they needed to finish ahead of Arsenal will be a major talking point. Spending more may have resulted in a Champions League spot.

When football and finance meet in North London, there are two distinct phenomena. Both tend to be the cause of regular complaints from fans. In the red half, there is Wengernomics, the fiscally prudent way of building a deluxe stadium, securing Champions League football and winning nothing.

In the white half, meanwhile, there is Levynomics, Tottenham's mixture of brinkmanship, bargain-hunting and tough trading. Named after the club's chairman, Daniel Levy, the instigator and overseer of their transfer-market policy, it has never been more pertinent.

As Real Madrid bid to make Gareth Bale the world's most expensive footballer, Levy's quixotic approach assumes a greater importance. Not merely for a player who could be catapulted into the bracket of the global superstars, but for Tottenham. It is undeniable that €100 million (Dh487.2m) is a game-changing sum for Spurs.

It is typical of Levy that he has rejected it.

Tottenham have spent the best part of a decade driving up the price for their players, professing themselves reluctant to sell, but usually, eventually, doing so. They surpassed most expectations - if not, perhaps, their own - in banking almost £50m from Manchester United for Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov.

Only Luka Modric, who joined Real for a still-considerable fee of £33m last summer, left for less than he might have done. The allure of the Spanish superpowers, as other English clubs have discovered, can sometimes result in fees being downgraded. They normally get their way. Where Levy is concerned, however, players rarely go quickly.

Whether such draining sagas actually benefit Tottenham in any aspect other than their bank balance is a moot point.

Martin Jol, a former Spurs manager, felt the impact of Carrick's sale was underestimated. More damagingly, Berbatov departed on deadline day in 2008.

Tottenham, frantically scrambling around for a striker, found two: United's Fraizer Campbell, borrowed for an unproductive year, and the Russian Roman Pavlyuchenko, a cult hero at White Hart Lane who struck only sporadically on the pitch.

The last-minute attempts to sign forwards have been a recurring theme. In successive Januarys, in 2012 and 2013, respectively, Tottenham bid for the Brazilian Leandro Damiao. On each occasion, they were unsuccessful. On both, perhaps, it ended up costing them Champions League football.

While Bale's brilliance almost camouflaged their striking shortfall, their status as nearly men was cemented by last season's fifth-place finish.

Should the Welshman go, the failure to secure another two points - all they needed to finish ahead of Arsenal - will be the major factor. Spending more than Levy would have liked might have resulted in the riches that the Champions League offers.

Holding out for a price that suits him can backfire. It is a reason why Heurelho Gomes, perhaps the best-paid third-choice goalkeeper in football, is still at White Hart Lane and why the £17m winger David Bentley was never sold.

Perhaps, too, playing hardball backfired when Tottenham thought they could secure a multi-million pound deal for Harry Redknapp when he was the favourite for the England job and instead ended up compensating the manager when they fired him a matter of months later.

Yet Redknapp had called Levy "a clever businessman with a fantastic business-brain offer" and the chairman's belief others will blink first in a transfer stand-off has resulted in many an inspired late deal: for the catalytic Rafael van der Vaart in 2010, the influential Scott Parker 12 months later and, last year, the marauding Moussa Dembele and Hugo Lloris, perhaps the Premier League's best goalkeeper.

The criticism is that by leaving his business to the end of the window, Levy condemns Spurs to a 35-game season. Yet the quest to save a million here or a few hundred thousand there could suddenly become irrelevant if €100m is deposited in Tottenham's bank account and the premier match-winner in England is removed from their squad.

Just as Wengernomics actually was a short-term phenomenon to keep Arsenal competitive while a stadium was funded, so Levynomics could be likewise abandoned.

If they have a record sum at their disposal, Tottenham's aims should change.

If they have to replace Bale, the sole criterion should be quality.

The bargain hunters could become extravagant spenders.


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