Madness can quickly ascend into the norm when writing about transfer speculation summer after summer so sometimes it’s necessary to step back, inhale a great big gulp of fresh air, and take stock of the situation.
Okay, so where are we? Virgil Van Dijk is presently being touted for more than half of what Barclays valued Southampton football club to be worth in 2013. Monaco’s eighteen year old striker Kylian Mbappe has a price tag that far exceeds £100m despite the French prodigy accumulating a mere 39 hours of professional football in his fledgling career. And Alvaro Morata is being punted around for £70m despite the fact that half of his appearances last season came from the Bernabeu bench.
So that’s where we are: spectacularly losing our shit in a land of apocalyptic fantasia.
Naturally it is the usual suspects who are front and centre, flexing their financial might with all the class of a fat businessman slowly sliding his gold Amex card into a stripper’s thong. Both Manchester giants are in the thrashing throes of overhaul; Liverpool are entering stage two of Project Klopp; while Chelsea bare their teeth, intent on constructing a formidable empire. At the back of the baying group is Arsenal, miming ‘call me’ with slightly haunted eyes and glistening sweat on their upper lip.
Away from this sordid scene, residing in a quiet cocktail bar somewhere, nursing a dry Martini and waiting for the silly season to blow itself out is the sixth member of last season’s elite. The only movement expected from them in the coming weeks is a slight adjustment of their bowtie; at most an arching of a single eyebrow at the flurry of frantic activity around them.
Tottenham Hotspur have long been lauded for a sensible and astute transfer policy that focuses on youth identification and development over lavish sprees and knee-jerk must-haves and, though we are only weeks into the summer hiatus, we are already seeing it evidenced again. Unlike the galactico ethos of their rivals it’s a strategy that steers well clear of bidding wars and concentrates instead of patiently sourcing round pegs for round holes, all the time adhering to a practical wage structure. And it works. It hasn’t always, and there have been glitches in the matrix along the way – most notably the multitude of flops bought from the £79m profit from the Bale sale in 2013 – but lessons were learned, their commendable stance actually hardening, and now, my god it works.
Overseen by negotiator-in-chief Daniel Levy, it’s a strategy that has forged a squad estimated to be worth nearly half a billion pounds more than it cost to assemble, a squad that – according to a recent study undertaken by the CIES Football Observatory – is the third most valuable in the world outside of the Spanish duopoly of Real and Barca.
If this wasn’t impressive enough then of course there is the end product to their boardroom blueprint to consider: an enterprising collective on the pitch with an English core who have finished second and third in the Premier League in successive seasons, losing only ten games along the way.
These have been immensely encouraging times at White Hart Lane that very much point to the cusp of a memorable era and all with a new stadium on the horizon to showcase it.
Yet it is precisely because of the above that it would be perfectly understandable if Spurs temporarily abandoned their long-standing mandate of transfer pragmatism and went for broke this summer. They are after all, by general consensus, just one big push and two big players away from possible immortality. Who could blame them then if they joined the Mad Max fray in the market place?
They haven’t and they won’t. Mauricio Pochettino said recently their priority was to target further young talent who fitted into his exacting philosophy – “Like Dele Alli, who preferred to come here than another club” – while the only speculation concerning them so far has been Kyle Walker’s expected departure; the sole dissenting member of the pack and presumably for mega-bucks. Granted there is an unlikely approach for Dani Alves to be his replacement being bandied around but can anyone really see that happening?
With Spurs’ nucleus of best players all tied down to lengthy contracts – not to mention Levy’s infamous reputation for driving a hard bargain – it is inconceivable there will be any sort of exodus at the north London club in the immediate future, this despite Danny Rose’s recent comments on team-mates fearing they might become ‘nearly men’. Similarly we can expect a measured approach in their purchasing that will keep them largely out of the back pages until they decide the time is right.
Such is the Tottenham way and it’s a way so creditable and, more importantly, productive, that it’s small wonder other clubs haven’t followed suit. Perhaps they would if they took a moment to step back, inhale a gulp of fresh air, and take stock of the insane world our leading clubs now inhabit.