3rd September 2009 – The definitive article on Spurs transfer dealings
On one level it has been an uninspiring transfer window, as no ‘Robinho-like’ superstars have deigned to join the premier league and Spurs have not added an Edgar Davids or Jurgen Klinsmann type player to the squad to bring in some star quality over the summer. However it can still be said that Spurs are deemed to have had a good window, buying in proven premiership class players and jogging on what can largely be said to be weaker members of the squad, whilst avoiding the mad upheaval of previous seasons.
The window has however been very interesting if you dig a little deeper. Despite the flow of riches into English football and the daily announcements that ‘Player X’ has just signed a contract worth another £1m+ a year, the general message is that times are hard and it appears the Sky4 are having to watch the pennies. Man City are an exception to the rule and are spending over the odds, building up their squad as quickly as an arsenal player can throw himself to the ground, and as you can see from the lists above, jumping to No 1 in the net spending lists to break the Sky4 cartel, mostly spent within the last 12 months.
The end of the transfer window provides an opportunity to try and cut through the hype of the media and to considerthe direction in which Spurs are heading. The team has strengthened in needed areas, has added proven Premiership performers to the squad in Bassong, Kranjcar and Crouch, as well as moving on more peripheral members of the squad. The trouble for Spurs is that the media then make a quantum leap between total transfer spending and what should be the reported level of achievement, leading to the popular myth that Spurs are perpetual underachievers, conveniently forgetting details like clubs that have bigger stadiums, richer owners and champions league money.
Measuring teams by looking at what they spend on transfers only ever tells half the story. It conveniently forgets to mention little important facts like the wage bill for a club and how much a club pays in signing on fees etc. Without such little details we would never have known what exactly motivated Judas to ever contemplate leaving Spurs, or Gareth Barry to turn down Liverpool for Man City , or for Tevez to leave Man Utd. If we add the wage bill into the equation, the Sky4 would shoot to the top of the table for expenditure, and there would be a massive gap between them to Newcastle in 5th, Spurs and then Villa. Without reprising the figures here, as a rough guide Spurs spend around £45m per year on wages, whilst Liverpool spend at least twice that on wages, Arsenal spend around £90m, Man Utd around £100m and Chelsea £120m. At this point I would add that I have taken these tables from another source on the web, so please do not shoot me for any inaccuracies, and a cursory look would suggest there are some within the reported figures.
The tables above show the estimated net spending of the premier league clubs since the start of the Premier League and over the last 5 years. You will see that historically Spurs feature strongly on both lists as we would expect, given the level of player turnover since Enic walked through the door. The table at the bottom of this lists the individual players that have been bought and sold in this period. The figures can, in the murky world of football only ever be a rough comparative as the details aren’t always released by the club, can be inaccurately reported (unless Spurs have had to announce the deal under the requirements as a plc), and can be subject to a large number of conditional clauses so that the actual money paid can differ from the reported figure. The list also appears to be inaccurate, if only using the non-mention of David Bentley in the list as an example (although that might reflect some wishful thinking of some at Spurs). Even if we factor in his supposed £15m+ transfer into the equation, it doesn’t really change the overall picture too much. It would mean Spurs have spent around £100m in the last 5/6 years and have been in the top 4 transfer spenders, over the period. Whilst the sums above suggest that Spurs have tried to match Liverpool in the transfer stakes, in reality the high figure would possible be better accounted for by the fact that Spurs have been a player trading agency over the last few years rather than a football club, and you can see from the list below that Spurs have traded at least 127 players since Hoddle was sacked. Over the same period Spurs have probably spent something like £200m+ less on wages for the players they have signed. When comparing Spurs with their nearest rivals in the league, within the champions league wannabe contenders, it would suggest that Newcastle have woefully underperformed, and Spurs have performed on par with Aston Villa, but have been out-performed by Everton. Maybe this is indicative of the talent of David Moyes, as he continues his search for the One Ring.
The list can also provide some way to measure the impact of Arry especially during a rare period when Spurs are sitting at the top of the league with a 100% record. We can see with the benefit of hindsight that Spurs spent over £70m during 2005/06, 2006/07 and 2007/08 under Levy and Comolli, Jol and Ramos. Clearly that level of investment in theory would have an impact on the quality of the squad even though it seems the majority of the players signed during that period have either moved on or have been moved on and bought back by the club. Whoever is ultimately responsible for the transfer dealings however, the recent past can be contrasted with the fact that the club has a net spend of £8m during the accounting period that Arry has been in charge. On the face of it, whilst Arry has a reputation as a spendthrift wheeler-dealer, the above tables also demonstrate that the 2 clubs he is most heavily associated with in Pompey and West Ham have made a profit in their transfer dealings during the Premiership years that he has been associated with them, albeit largely with the legacy of the players he brought into the club and were then sold on. What is certain however is that for all his flaws, Arry does seem to be able to coax the players to perform.
On a deeper analysis the summer transfer window has confirmed the power shift in English football. This isn’t due to anything that Tottenham have done, however we may find that Spurs benefit as a result.
With their owners Man City have come along and upset the apple-cart. They have poached players from and destabilised all of their main rivals, signing Tevez from Man Utd, Adebayor and Toure from the goons, Barry from Villa (at the expense of Liverpool undermining their plans to replace Alonso) and Lescott from Everton. Spurs have probably been immune from this thus far if only because we are already the feeder club for one club in manchester and Man City don’t need any more midfielders at this point in time.
The transfer window would suggest that Chelsea apart, the rest of the Sky4 are worried about their future. None of the established Champions League clubs have bought any star names on extravagant contracts. The reason I would imagine is that Liverpool, Arsenal and Man Utd cannot guarantee that with the arrival of Man City , they will be in the champions league money in 3 or 4 years time. As the average star footballer will sign for the club on a 4 or 5 year contract, it seems to me that the clubs are reluctant to commit themselves to large potential liabilities in wages that they may not be able to pay in 3 or 4 years time, and this means that the 3 of them are currently retrenching and keeping their costs and liabilities down.
Chelsea’s only worry is that Abramovich disappears over the north sea in his helicopter so that he is no longer around to sign the cheques to reward Brave John Terry’s loyalty or that he loses interest in football. Whilst he is there underwriting the bills, Chelsea will be able to protect their position within the champions league cartel.
Arsenal as we know are experiencing financial problems due to the property crash, and the fact that they decided to branch out as a property development company rather than concentrating their business as a football club. The rumours are that the boardroom unrest is down to the level of personal debt the directors had to assume to pay for the stadium which ended up far over the budget. Whatever they say publicly, the costs of the stadium have interfered with the football club and the team building of Wenger, so much so that a team that once went through a league season unbeaten, is now happy to finish 4th. A lesson there for Spurs, if ever there was one. However their long term future is probably brighter than most of their rivals, as Wenger remains their manager and probably will do so until he dies in the dug-out and they continue to produce top players nicked from barcelona ’s academy. Ultimately they will be in a position to print money if and when the bulk of the stadium debts have been paid.
Whilst they have been the team to beat, Man Utd have sold their prize asset, they have failed to replace him and they have put their prices up in the face of the worst recession this country has seen for decades. What does that tell you? Their American owners have experienced problems with their finances in America, and they have struggled to meet the interest payments on the leveraged deal to buy the club, never mind seek to reduce the level of debt (at least until they sold the winker). Their midfield looks to be the weakest it has been for years and it seems they will be reliant on the talent of Rooney and the misfiring Berbatov to maintain their place at the top of the tree. As this is a world cup year Rooney is bound to get injured and if he does, Man Utd may be in relative trouble. They also have the problem that OWF is approaching 70 and at some point in the near future he will have to step aside
Despite the problems at Man Utd however, Liverpool are the most vulnerable of the Sky4. Their owners have more financial problems than the Glazers, and despite negotiating a £350m loan deal with the banks when they took over the club to finance the new stadium, it appears Liverpool have spent most of it on debt payments and player wages, and they still are no where nearer getting a new stadium and they now have 2 star players instead of just the one when the Americans took over. As we saw at the first weekend of the season, Torres and Gerrard apart, the rest of the squad is no better than any of the champions league wannabe teams, it is probably weaker than Spurs and Everton’s. In the short term future, given their financial liabilities, and the competition for the champions league places, it is difficult to see how Liverpool will be able to adequately replace $tevie Me when he gets too old to run the show for them.
It is probably a season too early for Man City , but given their wealth and their ability to destabilise their rivals, they will take their place at the top table so I would expect to see them in the top three by the end of next season.
At the moment, the clubs threatened by their arrival have all sought to retrench and to limit their liabilities. However, when City have established themselves, the next stage for the 3 threatened members of the cartel will be one of panic. They all need the money from the champions league to pay their debts. Whichever club is at threat of losing their Champions league money will either have to cut their costs and sell their assets (eg like Ronaldo) or throw money at the problem to try and buy their place back (eg Leeds). The hope is that City destabilise the cartel so much that 2 or more of them get dragged back into the pack, or better still go into meltdown, which would leave the door open to a club like Spurs to capitalise. If that does happen, on the basis of what he has achieved so far, both financially in the transfer market, and on the pitch, Spurs may have their best chance of doing so under Arry.