Amid persisting whispers of Paris Saint-Germain attempting to prise Andre Villas-Boas from the White Hart Lane dugout to the sidelines of the Parc des Princes late last June, the anticipated appointment of Franco Baldini as Tottenham Hotspur’s technical director being made official flew somewhat under the radar. Two months on, the Italian’s efforts are evident for all to see now that the new Premier League season is getting underway.
Real Madrid’s heavily debated pursuit of Gareth Bale has dominated any coverage of Spurs over the summer. Club chairman Daniel Levy has maintained his traditional hardline stance in transfer negotiations as Madrid president Florentino Pérez has flirted with the Welsh wizard. Baldini, meanwhile, has quietly gone about reinvesting any potential influx of funds with several tidy signings.
The former Roma general manager’s principal objective was to secure a prolific striker’s signature. Bringing in Valencia’s ruthless finisher Roberto Soldado for £26m has successfully filled that void. Additionally, acquiring the services of underrated midfielders Paulinho and Étienne Capoue from Corinthians and Toulouse respectively could yet be the defining factor in ultimately guaranteeing Champions League action next term. Former Twente winger Nacer Chadli is set to be a surprise package of pace and tricks.
Despite breaking the club transfer record initially with the £17m-man Paulinho – who was being chased by Internazionale, Real Madrid and Chelsea – and subsequently for Soldado, Baldini has been immensely effective in signing players with international pedigree on a modest budget. Paulinho was an architect in Brazil’s Confederations Cup triumph and Soldado has been Spain’s prime striker of late. Capoue and Chadli will not be guaranteed starters, but add a respectable depth in Villas Boas’ squad.
English football has never truly embraced the ‘continental approach’ of an established director to oversee business in the transfer market. However, Spurs and Manchester City are the division’s influential outfits pioneering the European approach. The pair have arguably had the most impressive transfer campaigns in the entire league - in stark contrast to their respective city rivals Arsenal and Manchester United, both of whom have struggled to finalise several deals for players they have targeted.
Levy announced the England assistant manager during Fabio Capello’s reign will “work closely with Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood [head of football development in the youth sector] in the area of recruitment across all levels on the playing side” in his new role. Levy is an open advocate of the arrangement as it permits the manager to focus on coaching, while the Portuguese tactician has championed for a director in such a capacity since his arrival last year.
Tottenham have not purposely employed a director in such as position for several years as it was abolished during Harry Redknapp’s four-year stint as manager. Former Liverpool director of football strategy Damien Comolli was the last person to fulfill the function – replacing Frank Arnesen in 2005.
Early signs indicate Baldini is living up to his billing. He has a storied history as a director establishing his reputation at Roma during a six-year spell from 1999 to 2005 – under his command the capital club won its first title in18 years in 2001. In 2006, the wily operator tailed Capello for a season at Santiago Bernabéu. His last job before upping sticks from London was as the Giallorossi’s general manager from 2011. Alongside director of sport Walter Sabatini, the one-time midfielder marshaled the team through its first two years under American ownership.
Sabatini has been spotted around London this week, and the Italian media speculate that Baldini is trying to orchestrate moves for either lightening-quick winger Erik Lamela or stylish playmaker Miralem Pjanić - or both. Either would greatly improve Spurs with their talents, and above all top off an excellent transfer campaign.
Tottenham have avoided the negative press several of their closets rivals have endured for their dragged-out transfer sagas, and can start the 2013-14 season in a frankly positive light regardless of what Bale’s imminent future holds.