How Tottenham’s opportunism led to one of their best transfer windows

At the start of lockdown, Daniel Levy feared for the very future of Tottenham.

“Clubs big or small,” the chairman warned in March, “may struggle to exist” after the pandemic.

For Spurs, the timing of the shutdown could hardly have been worse. The club’s £1.2billion stadium was built to propel them into the stratosphere of super-clubs but overnight it became an expensive white elephant – until being put to important, albeit unprofitable, use as a NHS hospital.

The club forecast a £200million loss of revenue and increased their substantial debt by taking a £175m Bank of England loan. Against this backdrop of financial uncertainty, few imagined Spurs would have one of their best-ever transfer windows.

Suggestions that manager Jose Mourinho would have to rebuild his squad on a thin gruel of loans, free agents and swap deals proved unfounded, as Spurs spent over £60m on six new players, efficiently plugging weaknesses in the squad with proven quality and “characters”.

The return of Gareth Bale alone energised the fan base like no other transfer in Tottenham’s modern history and the window could yet improve further if they land Swansea centre-half Joe Rodon before the October 16 domestic deadline .

Spurs spent far less than summer 2019 but their impressive business still felt somewhat uncharacteristic. So, what were the main reasons for Spurs’ success in the transfer window?

(AFP via Getty Images)

Mourinho’s impact

For all the lingering questions about his management, Mourinho has lost none of his skill as a master manipulator of the public message, and he remains as effective at squeezing his superiors as any coach in the game.

The 57-year-old struck an effective balance between pressuring Levy and remaining firmly “on message”, particularly in his quest for a new striker. He repeatedly dismissed Heung-min Son as an option up front, even after the South Korean scored four times against Southampton, and so plain was Mourinho’s desire for a centre-forward, failure to deliver would have left Levy and the club on the back foot.

When Carlos Vinicius finally arrived on loan from Benfica, it felt like a personal triumph for Mourinho.

To understand Mourinho’s influence, it is worth comparing him with his predecessor, Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine was genuinely sceptical of new signings and more than once turned down players offered to him by the club, including Marco Asensio and Youri Tielemans.

Levy, in turn, is sceptical of the correlation between success and spending big, and the result was a relationship without enough productive tension to get difficult signings over the line.

By contrast, Levy and Mourinho have found a more fruitful balance, at least for now, with the pragmatic Portuguese more willing than Pochettino to accept suggestions from the club, as he did with Steven Bergwijn in January.

Market opportunism

Levy, though, has maintained he would prioritise strengthening the squad once the stadium was finished, so it is fair to assume Pochettino would have eventually been allowed his “painful rebuild”.

This summer’s spending is, in part, simply a consequence of the club’s substantial growth over the past decade, and the completion of their expensive infrastructure projects.

There has also been an element of market opportunism in Spurs’ business. Levy leapt at the chance to sign Bale after being offered the Welshman by cash-strapped Real Madrid while discussing a deal for Sergio Reguilon, who, at around £26m, was a canny piece of business in a market depressed by the pandemic.

So, too, was Matt Doherty at £15m, while signing Joe Hart on a free transfer should prove profitable if Spurs sell Paulo Gazzaniga, as they still hope to in the new year.

Spurs have gambled on buying prudently while the market is flat in the hope it will bounce back to pre-Covid levels in time.

Bale and Carlos Vinicius, meanwhile, are both loan deals with limited risk attached, even if Bale’s wages will cost roughly £10m for the season – Levy successfully knocking off a £1m following the medical when it became clear the 31-year-old would not be fit for a month.

The loan deals, and a two-year deal for Hart, also add an element of Mourinho-proofing to the club’s business, ensuring Spurs are not left with several unwanted players if they are forced to replace the boom-and-bust specialist in the not-so-distant future.

(Pool via REUTERS)

The Everton effect

“It’s not a bad result that makes me change my idea,” Mourinho said after Tottenham’s opening-day defeat to Everton, when it was suggested the result had forced Tottenham’s hand in the transfer market.

The Spurs manager may have denied it but at least one source close to the club says the result galvanised Levy into action. Within days, Spurs were in talks with Real Madrid over both Bale and Reguilon, their biggest double signing since Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa in 1978, and they stepped up their attempts to sign a new centre-forward and centre-half.

The abject display against the Toffees made it seem not only possible but probable that Spurs would miss out on Champions League football for a second consecutive season, delivering another hammer blow to Levy’s careful curated long-term business plan. Suddenly, it became prudent to spend money to ensure Spurs would remain competitive.

After the game, Spurs were deflated but it could prove to be one of the club’s most important results in years.

(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Mendes’ influence

Super-agent Jorge Mendes has been at the heart of many of the summer’s biggest transfers, including James Rodriguez’s move to Everton, Liverpool’s surprise capture of Diego Jota and Manchester City’s signing of Ruben Dias.

A close confidant of Mourinho, Mendes has also been influential at Spurs. He could hardly have been more central in the signing of Doherty, with Mendes both representing the 28-year-old right-back and advising Wolves’ Chinese owners, who own a stake in his agency, Gestifute. Mendes and Mourinho led the deal, which felt like a bargain for Spurs, and Doherty later admitted the manager had wooed him with text messages and calls before he joined.

Similarly, Mendes was the guiding hand in the loan move for Vinicius, which cost Spurs just £2.3m up front and has been met with dismayed fury by Benfica fans.

As one of the most well-connected, influential and canny agents in the game, Mendes feels like an important ally for Spurs, particularly in such uncertain times.

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Transfer news LIVE: Sancho to Man United latest, Dembele fee agreed, Tottenham’s Foyth wanted by Barcelona

Welcome to the Evening Standard’s live blog covering the latest transfer news and rumours from the Premier League and Europe.

After the UK Government confirmed that sport can return from June 1, Premier League clubs remain in talks over Project Restart with the aim of resuming the 2019-20 season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, speculation around potential transfer for the 2020-21 season remains in full swing.

We’ll keep you abreast of all the news from our correspondents, and the talking points and rumours from the rest of Europe.

Latest transfer news and rumours…

Live Updates


Manchester United agree Dembele fee

Manchester United have reportedly agreed a fee in the region of £62 for Lyon striker Moussa Dembele.

Photo: AFP

United have been linked with a move for the former Celtic and Fulham striker in recent weeks, with Chelsea still interested in the 23-year-old.

But Todofichajes reports that United have stolen a march on Frank Lampard’s side, and have agreed a fee for the forward.


Everton seeking Pickford rival

Football Insider say that Everton will look to bring in a new second choice goalkeeper this summer to provide competition for Jordan Pickford.

Photo: Getty

The England number one has made several high-profile errors this season and his form has been inconsistent. 

Current no.2 Maarten Stekelenburg is due to be out of contract at the end of the season. 


Haaland focused on Dortmund amid Madrid talk

Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland has discussed the rumours linking him with a summer switch to Real Madrid.

Photo: Getty

The 19-year-old Norwegian striker, who moved to BVB from RB Salzburg in January, is a target for Los Blancos as they look to solve their problems in front of goal in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era and he could be available for a relatively affordable €60 million.

“I’m concentrated on the return to competition,” he told Sky Germany ahead of the Bundesliga’s restart this weekend when asked about a possible move to Real Madrid. “Not on the attention that is directed at me.

“I’m thinking about doing my job, which is what I like best. I’m focused on that.”


RVP: Fergie told me he’d stay three years when I signed for United

Former Manchester United striker Robin van Persie has revealed he checked on Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement plans before signing for the club – and the Scot told him he had three years left in the tank.

Photo: Getty

Van Persie left Arsenal to join United in a controversial deal in the summer of 2012, but his goals fired his new side to the title in what would turn out to be Ferguson’s last season in charge. 

“That was a bit of a shock,” Van Persie told Premier League Productions. “Just before I signed, I literally had the pen in my hand and I said ‘One more thing Sir Alex, how much longer are you planning to stay?’ and he said ‘At least three more years’.

“To be fair the reason why he stopped was family reasons and family comes first.

“He was one of the big reasons I signed so it was a blow but then that is football. players come and go, managers too. He played 26 years and built the club up but that’s life.”


We mentioned Ousmane Dembele and the speculation surrounding his future a little earlier on. Our Spanish correspondent Ben Hayward has the latest on his battle to get fit…

Ousmane Dembele was back at Barcelona’s training ground on Wednesday to continue his recovery from long-term injury.

The French forward has not featured for the Catalan club since November and suffered a setback in February when he had been closing in on a return to action.

Dembele injured his hamstring in training in early February and the problem required surgery, which was carried out in Finland and is expected to see him sidelined for a total of six months.

With the 22-year-old out for so long, Barca moved to bring in striker Martin Braithwaite from Leganes in an emergency deal outside the transfer window.

To do so, Dembele was unregistered for LaLiga and the winger can only feature for Barca in the Champions League now this season.

The former Borussia Dortmund attacker, who turns 23 on Friday, will have his progress monitored at the club’s Sant Joan Despi base in the coming weeks and could play a part for the Blaugrana if the Champions League is extended into late summer.


Chelsea ‘set Bakayoko asking price’

Chelsea will reportedly demand a €35million fee for midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko this summer.

Photo: Getty

Bakayoko was a £40m arrival in 2017 but has never proved his worth in a Chelsea shirt and has recently spent time on loan at AC Milan and Monaco. 

Le10 Sport say that the Blues would be willing to make a significant loss to get him off their books should a buyer emerge this summer, amid speculation that PSG are interested. 


‘Send Brewster on loan again’

Sky Sports pundit Don Goodman believes Liverpool starlet Rhian Brewster should be sent out on loan again next season.

Photo: Getty

The 20-year-old has been on loan at Swansea since January and Goodman believes he needs more playing time. 

“I think this is an important stage of his development,” said Goodman. “You’re talking about Liverpool, so you are talking about the champions-elect of the Premier League, champions of Europe – you are talking about one of the best teams in the world and you are talking about the plethora of talent they have at their disposal. 

“Yes, he’s a talented young man but I personally think that another season in the Championship – probably with Swansea who play a style that suits him where he’s already familiar – would do him good.

“If he stays at Swansea and can maybe pick up 15-20 Championship goals next season, I think that would be the best plan for him.”

Barca ‘would loan or swap Dembele’

AS report that Barcelona would be willing to let Ousmane Dembele leave the club as part of a swap deal this summer, or possibly even on loan.

Photo: Getty

The Catalan giants had reportedly hoped to sell the Frenchman for at least €60m, but are aware that the coronavirus pandemic makes that unlikely. 

Instead, he could be used as capital as part of an exchange or even let go on loan with an option-to-buy, in the hope that interested clubs will be in a better financial position in 12 months’ time. 


Mertens ‘nearing Inter switch’

Chelsea could be set to miss out on Dries Mertens as reports in Italy suggest Inter Milan are edging closer to sealing the Napoli star’s signature.

Photo: AFP

The 32-year-old is out of contract next month and looks set to depart the Italian outfit after failing to agree terms on a new deal.

Frank Lampard wanted to sign Mertens in January but the forward insisted on seeing out his contract with the Partenopei.

However, Sport Mediaset claim Antonio Conte is about to get one over his former club by snatching Mertens from under their noses, with a two-year contract worth £4.4m-a-year net.


Dortmund issue Sancho transfer warning

Borussia Dortmund CEO Carsten Cramer has hinted the club will not entertain offers for Jadon Sancho.

Standard Sport understands the 20-year-old is Manchester United’s top target this summer while Chelsea remain interested in the England international.

Photo: AFP

Sancho has two years to run on his contract with the Bundesliga outfit and it is believed Dortmund would demand a fee in the region of £120m to part with the forward, who has scored 14 goals and registered 15 assists this season.

But ahead of the resumption of the Bundesliga season on Saturday, Dortmund CEO Carsten Cramer reiterated their desire to keep Sancho at the club.

“We want to keep our players at for as long as possible,” he told BBC Sport. “The less clubs interested in Jadon, the less we would complain.”


Poyet questions Ziyech deal

Gus Poyet says he struggled to understand why Chelsea did not sign Hakim Ziyech from Ajax in January.

The Morocco international will head to Stamford Bridge in a £37m deal after the two clubs agreed a deal in February – only days after the winter transfer window closed.

Photo: Getty

It is believed the Blues were only able to convince Ajax to sell Ziyech at the end of the season, but Poyet has questioned the west London club tactics in the transfer market.

“I didn’t understand – and I’m not criticising anyone – why Chelsea, after all that went on in the summer, not being able to sign players, get to January with the possibility of signing players, they didn’t,” Poyet told Stats Perform via Goal. “And then three days later, four days later, they announce they sign a player for next year.

“It’s not normal, okay? I’m not saying it’s bad, but I lost it a little bit because you complain a lot about not being able to buy, then you have the chance to buy and you don’t, and then when the transfer window is closed you announce that you bought one.

“Leaving that aside, I think they got the quality of a player the fans will enjoy watching.”

Sane can improve Bayern, says Lewandowski

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge may have stayed tight-lipped on Leroy Sane’s potential move to Bayern Munich – but Robert Lewandowski says he would relish the chance to link up with the Manchester City winger.

Sane is reportedly set to join the Bundesliga giants after agreeing a five-year deal with them, with his contract due to expire in 2021.

And Lewandowski believes the 24-year-old would mark a fine signing for the Bavarian outfit, having watched Sane perform for Man City.

“There is a lot of speculation. I can only say that he is a great player with great skills who can harmonise very well with his team-mates,” Lewandowski told Goal.

“Not just in the Premier League or the Champions League, we’ve already seen what he could do at Schalke. He could certainly help us find new solutions in our game.” 


Man United in talks to sign Plea

Manchester United are in discussions over the potential signing of Borussia Monchengladbach forward Alassane Plea.

Photo: Getty/Bongarts

The French forward joined the Bundesliga outfit from OGC Nice in 2018 and has scored eight goals in 22 appearances this season. 

According to Sky Germany, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a “huge fan” of the striker and Man United have stepped up their interest in the 27-year-old by opening talks with his representatives.

While United explore a loan deal for Odion Ighalo, it is believed Gladbach would demand around £21m for Plea and that could appeal to the Red Devils should Shanghai Shenhua refuse to extend the Nigerian’s agreement.


Inter eye Arsenal duo

Napoli are targeting Arsenal strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the Gunners face a decision on their futures.

Photo: Getty

According to Calcio Napoli 24, the Partenopei are monitoring the situation regarding Aubameyang’s contract, with the 30-year-old stalling over a new deal.

However, with interest from Barcelona and Manchester United, Napoli may find it tough to convince Aubameyang to join them ahead of bigger clubs.

Lacazette has been linked with Atletico Madrid after a mixed season for the north London side and it is reported Arsenal could be willing to cash in now rather than let the France international’s contract run down. 


Chelsea to allow Bakayoko exit

Tiemoue Bakayoko is set to end his Stamford Bridge nightmare after it emerged Chelsea are willing to take a loss to let him leave permanently.

The 25-year-old has spent the season on loan at AS Monaco and was farmed out to AC Milan for the 2018/19 campaign after falling out of favour.

Bakayoko cost £40 million from Monaco in 2017 but now looks set to seal a transfer back to his native France having made only made 43 appearances.

Le10 Sport have reported the Blues are in “advanced negotiations” with Paris Saint-Germain, who are ready to pay £25.8m for the midfielder.


Spurs learn price for Betis star

Tottenham have been told they must cough up £50 million to sign Loren Moron from Real Betis this summer.

Photo: AFP

The 26-year-old scored 11 goals in 29 appearances for the LaLiga outfit before the coronavirus pandemic halted the season.

Moron had been linked with Barcelona in January before they eventually signed Martin Braithwaite, and now the striker has been targeted by Napoli and Spurs, according to Estadio Deportivo.

But Betis’ insistence that Moron’s hefty asking price is met will likely put off potential suitors as clubs face financial constraints due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Guardiola ‘to snub Barca’ return

Pep Guardiola made his name as a football coach when he guided Barcelona to a famous Treble in 2008/09.

Eight years on, the Catalan giants are planning to bring back the 49-year-old to Camp Nou if Joan Laporta is re-elected in the presidential elections.

But according to The Sun, Guardiola will rebuff any approach from his former club with Man City looking to agree a new contract.

With the outcome of City’s Champions League ban appeal still to come, however, Guardiola could change his mind if the Premier League champions are barred from the competition for two seasons.


Spurs ‘submit Osimhen bid’

The Express report Tottenham have made an offer to sign Lille striker Victor Osimhen but could face competition from Chelsea.

Photo: AFP

The Nigerian striker, 22, has impressed visiting scouts this season after scoring 18 goals in all competitions, including a header against the Blues in the Champions League.

Chelsea are interested in the towering striker but could miss out as London rivals Spurs have already lodged a bid.

However, with a limited budget expected this summer, it remains to be seen whether they can match Lille’s demands.

In-demand Havertz should stay at Leverkusen, says Ballack

Kai Havertz should consider staying at Bayer Leverkusen rather than seeking a transfer to a bigger club this summer, according to Michael Ballack.

The 20-year-old has been linked with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, as well as Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the Bundesliga club have suggested he can leave for a fee in the region of £100m.

Photo: AFP

But former Germany international Ballack thinks Havertz may be better off playing in a low-pressure environment at this stage of his career.

“Players with his quality are in demand everywhere. But I think he’s in good hands in Leverkusen,’ Ballack told Bild.

“The conditions there are perfect for young top players and their development. Bayer play attractive football and their training facilities are very good. Leverkusen also offer a cautious environment, and as a player you can make mistakes without being the focus of criticism. You should appreciate that.

“Of course a player like Kai Havertz has to play in the Champions League, so it would be important for Leverkusen to qualify for it.”


Who is Eray Comert? FC Basel star linked with £2m Arsenal switch

Arsenal are reportedly lining up a £2 million cut-price move for FC Basel defender Eray Comert in the summer transfer window.

Photo: Getty/Bongarts

Clubs will likely be forced to be cut back on their budgets in the coming transfer window due to the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic.

Arsenal’s head of football, Raul Sanllehi, has warned fans not to expect big signings this summer and according to reports, Mikel Arteta has identified Comert as a player who fits the bill in terms of price and talent.

But a report from Turkish outlet Fanatik reports Comert will have his choice of destination if he decides to leave the Swiss Super League outfit, with interest from Turkey for his signature.

Does the 22-year-old have what it takes to make in the Premier League? Click here for the full profile of the reported Arsenal target.

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When does the 2020 summer transfer window open?

The summer window opens in England at the end of the season – currently May 18, but that will almost certainly not be when it finishes due to Covid-19 delays.

Players can be officially registered with their new clubs when the Fifa international window opens on July 1.

From January 1 onwards, Premier League players with six months left on their contract have been able to negotiate and agree pre-contract deals with foreign clubs.

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