AS Daniel Levy made another transatlantic trip from his family home in Florida to north London, Tottenham’s chairman began to prepare for life after Gareth Bale.
He is back in town to complete the deal for Willian, paying a club record £30million fee for the 25-year-old Anzhi Makhachkala winger, as Spurs prepare to let Bale leave for Real Madrid. Yesterday, Bale was at Tottenham’s magnificent 77-acre training centre, laughing and joking with staff. He is relaxed and happy. No-one asks, but everyone assumes he is on his way to the Bernabeu.
Levy is moving on, relying on technical director Franco Baldini to set up the deals that he expects will propel his club into the top four and beyond. This is the new Tottenham, a ruthless business enterprise with ambitions to compete at the elite level of European club competition.
Bale, the club’s £85m asset, scooped some major individual awards last season after his breathtaking performances. This time Levy wants the team to triumph, to power their way back into Champions League football and keep the fans entertained with some top-end signings. Roberto Soldado (£25.8m), who scored the winning penalty on his debut at Crystal Palace last Sunday, Paulinho (£17m), Nacer Chadli (£7m) and Etienne Capoue (£9m) are already making an impact.
Central to the plan is Baldini, the man with a network of contacts in the game after 20 years working at executive level at some of the biggest clubs in Europe. His reach is far and wide after spells as sporting director at Roma and Real Madrid and four years as general manager of England, when Fabio Capello was in charge of the national team.
Tottenham have come a long way from the ‘bring and buy’ sales of the past, when Levy would be at the training ground on deadline day to trade players late into the night. He knew they had to change their ways after their doomed attempts to sign Emile Heskey and Kevin Doyle on the evening in 2008 when they sold Dimitar Berbatov to Manchester United for £30m.
Finally, Levy has found his man in Baldini, brought in to schmooze with the best of them and make sure Tottenham are well ahead of their rivals when it comes to signing the world’s best talent.
Baldini is so well-travelled he has the names of the top hotels in any major city around the world on instant recall.
He learned English working as a waiter in Brighton when he was a teenager, spending the summer on the south coast before he signed his first professional contract with Sangiovannese.
Baldini’s command of the English language gave him a head start when he arrived with Capello in 2007 and he has settled straight back into London life. Baldini has an office at Tottenham’s training site in Enfield, a facility that is the envy of European football after it opened in September last year.
From there he has brokered the sales of Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone, Clint Dempsey and Steven Caulker for a combined figure of around £24m. Andros Townsend, who spent last season on loan at relegated QPR, is for sale and Baldini is quoting £7m. Emmanuel Adebayor and Benoit Assou-Ekotto have both fallen out with Villas-Boas and have been told to find new clubs.
Tottenham have gone foreign, with Baldini meeting Levy’s challenge to turn the club into serious players at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Villas-Boas, who has formed a strong working relationship with Baldini in a short space of time, insists he is still willing to work with English talent. The problem, as he explained at the launch of the Premier League last Thursday, is the premium placed on young English players by rival clubs.
Instead, Spurs have turned to South America for Willian, who joined the impressive Paulinho at the club after turning down Liverpool’s offer yesterday afternoon. Baldini made a late run for Pablo Dani Osvaldo last Sunday, but Southampton had been seducing the striker throughout the summer.
There are still other targets, with Miralem Pjanic being courted and his Roma team-mate Erik Lamela, 21, close to agreeing a deal to move to White Hart Lane.
It has all been authorised by Levy, but he will be keeping a close eye on the wage bill as the club prepare to put the finishing touches to the annual accounts, which are due out next month.
Tottenham are the 13th biggest club in Europe, according to the Deloitte Money League, but their £144m revenue is well behind brand leader Real Madrid (£414m). Spurs paid £91m in wages to the club’s 341 staff last season — most of it to the players.
In addition to dealing with their spiralling running costs and transfer fees, Levy is also operating in a new era of financial fair play. Under new UEFA regulations, clubs face sanctions if they report losses of more than £38.55m over three years. In a separate initiative, Premier League clubs voted in favour of penalties if they lose more than £105m over the same time-frame.
Tottenham reached the Champions League quarter-finals in 2011, but have failed to qualify for the competition since. Chelsea’s victory two years ago cost fourth-placed Spurs their spot, and last season Arsenal pipped them by a point. Life in the Europa League is little consolation and Spurs made a loss of £4.3m after tax when they posted their annual accounts last year.
Behind the scenes, Levy continues to work on the new stadium development, but he has hit a snag in his ambitious plans to remodel White Hart Lane on the existing site. However, when it is finally built, Levy expects the team to reach new heights. – Daily Mail