Jol: A man with a history of always wanting more

Fulham are not the first team to experience the Dutchman's prowess in the art of negotiation
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The Independent Football

A few months into his time at Tottenham Hotspur, Martin Jol was sitting in his office at the training ground when there was a knock at the door. A club official appeared in the doorway dangling some car keys and outside was a brand new Porsche, a present from chairman Daniel Levy to Jol to mark the manager's 49th birthday.

The £70,000 sports car was also Levy's way of saying "thank you" after Jol turned the team's fortunes around with the minimum of fuss. The Dutchman had taken over and steadied the ship after the ill-judged appointment of Jacques Santini had left Levy with egg on his face. Jol took one look at the car, stuck out his Desperate Dan chin and joked: "It's a pity it's not a Cabriolet."

Fulham can't say they haven't been warned. Jol appears to be one of those insecure types who are constantly concerned that the grass might be greener on the other side of the fence, that he could do better somewhere else. He is the guy who wins the lottery but complains that it's not a rollover.

During his three-year spell at Tottenham he was jovial at times, spiky at others, but always driven. Jol is not alone among managers in wanting to better himself and in showing little shame in using one club as a stepping stone to manage another, bigger, one elsewhere. No one is criticising Roy Hodgson, for example, for walking away from Fulham.

However, Jol does have previous when it comes to playing one side off brazenly against another. He did it in 2007 when he was doing well at Spurs, but was only too happy to court the attentions of Newcastle until he was spotted by club officials in the company of the Newcastle chairman, Freddy Shepherd, who at that time was in search of another new manager.

The winner three years ago was Jol, who was able to use the interest from Newcastle to engineer himself another pay rise at Tottenham. In many respects the situation was a forerunner of the recent battle for his services between Fulham and his current employers Ajax.

The significant difference with this year's stand-off is that Jol is not trying to negotiate a fatter pay packet for himself, but a transfer budget that will allow him to build on narrowly finishing second behind Steve McClaren's FC Twente side in the Dutch Eredivisie. Some in the Ntherlands don't believe he is all that good anyway and claim that his stock is higher in England, which is one of the attractions for Jol of a return.

It is not unusual for any employee to use the threat that he might leave to take up a post elsewhere as a bargaining chip to negotiate himself a better deal in his current job. Perhaps it is simply that Jol is more ruthless about the situation, that he is unconcerned about leaving those involved with a bad taste in their mouths. He seemed to show little mind for Levy's feelings regarding the birthday Porsche. The Spurs chairman is understood to have been hurt at Jol's apparent lack of gratitude for the car, and the grievance remained until Levy gave the manager the sack in October 2007 after an indifferent start to the season. They have patched up their differences and are now back on cordial terms again.

The events in Amsterdam of the past two days show, however, that Jol remains as belligerent as ever. He can be a tough person to deal with, as Fulham owner, Mohamed al-Fayed, and chief executive, Alistair Mackintosh, have been finding out over the past 48 hours. They had set their hearts on Jol as the man to replace Hodgson, and believed they had secured his services before they found he was using their interest as a lever to strengthen his position at Ajax.

One thing has been made abundantly clear to Fulham in the chaotic last couple of days. Jol is not totally committed to Fulham, or to Ajax. Even if he did agree to take over at Fulham there can be little doubt that it would only be considered by Jol a stepping stone towards moving to a bigger club as soon as possible. The example of Hodgson taking charge at Liverpool is all the incentive Jol needs to see that Fulham could be a bridge for him to greater things.

In which case it would only be a matter of time before Fulham were caught in the same dilemma in which Ajax now find themselves. And there would be a good chance that Jol would be heading off to pastures new at high speed, probably driving that birthday Porsche that Levy gave him.