Arnesen accelerates Tottenham investment in youth

Spurs were Europe's busiest club in the transfer window. Jason Burt sees a change of focus in their spending
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The Independent Football

Tottenham Hotspur could not have been busier in the transfer market if they had appointed Harry Redknapp as manager after all. Instead, Frank Arnesen has made the old wheeler-dealer look like a novice when it has come to signing players.

Tottenham Hotspur could not have been busier in the transfer market if they had appointed Harry Redknapp as manager after all. Instead, Frank Arnesen has made the old wheeler-dealer look like a novice when it has come to signing players.

Seven arrivals in January, with another signing a pre-contract agreement, mean that Spurs' sporting director made the club the busiest in Europe, never mind the Premiership, during the transfer window. Added to that, four players have departed, although Calum Davenport will return from Southampton following his loan spell. He will find extra competition. Michael Dawson, from Nottingham Forest, was one of six to arrive in the last week alone. The central defender - Spurs seem to be collecting them - signed as part of an £8m double deal with Andy Reid.

The deadline-day price was greater than Spurs had wanted to pay, which was irksome for the chairman, Daniel Levy, who is a notoriously tricky negotiator and someone who tries - to the chagrin of some clubs - to agree deals with complicated payment systems. A transfer of that kind was proposed for Reid. In the end, it took six attempts to sign the Republic of Ireland international with Spurs paying £4.7m - near enough the price originally asked this time last year.

Nevertheless the spending is astonishing, especially when a statement by Levy, last autumn, is taken into account. Spurs remain a public limited company and reported an operating loss of £1.9m for the year up to the end of June. Then Levy said that £37.5m had been spent on transfer fees since July 2003 (it is now nearer £48m) and that 17 players had left (it is now 20) and 21 arrived (now 28).

"This has been possible through the support of the club's key investors and the ongoing financial stability of the club's operations," Levy wrote. "This level of investment underlines the ambitions we have but is clearly not sustainable."

Despite the obvious meaning of that last clause, Levy has carried on spending - which raises questions over what his strategy is and where the money he is spending is coming from. Matters are complicated by that fact that although a plc, Spurs are controlled by Levy and the billions of the Bahamas-based businessman Joe Lewis, with the former chairman Sir Alan Sugar also holding a 13 per cent stake. Levy's position was strengthened by last year's discounted share sale which raised £15m for transfers - part of which went on buying Jermain Defoe.

That bolstered the funds available to Arnesen. Also, in terms of revenue, only Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Newcastle generate more cash than Spurs, and the wage bill, in particular, has come under more control.

In fairness to his predecessor, Arnesen has only accelerated a policy which started under David Pleat. Investment in youth has replaced lavish spending - in wages as well as fees - on older, established players such as Teddy Sheringham, Christian Ziege and Sergei Rebrov. Indeed, the £11m spent on the latter by George Graham still haunts Levy. Graham's successor, Glenn Hoddle, did not want the player and Levy will not allow that to happen again.

That is why Levy struck upon the idea of implementing a European-style management structure with a head coach and director of football. He attempted it with Hoddle and Pleat, and, after the short-lived attempt with Jacques Santini and Arnesen, appears to have the right chemistry with Martin Jol.

Arnesen has certainly enhanced the club's credibility, its continuity and its attraction. His reputation, after doing the job for 10 years, unearthing Ronaldo et al, is peerless - as is his contacts book. And there is a clear, if slightly scattergun, strategy in place.

Last summer the club was linked with Edgar Davids and Luis Figo, but instead signed little-known players such as Thimothee Atouba and Reto Ziegler: clearly they were no longer buying reputations. Among last summer's arrivals was Edson Silva Sousa, who has already been moved on, while little is heard of Rodrigo Defendi or Spase Dilevski. Still, Levy knows he will never again have to write off millions in lost transfer fees as he did with Rebrov, Ben Thatcher and Chris Perry.

Yesterday Arnesen professed himself pleased with last month's business. "We are very satisfied," he said. "We haven't lost any key players and that's important. You have to be aware of that because clubs can come in for them, but our big players are happy at Tottenham."

Despite Chelsea toying with a bid for Defoe, the only concrete offer was Everton's for Simon Davies and that - at £2m - was rejected. Arnesen may well be right, although supporters also need to be aware that the stars he created at PSV Eindhoven, from Ruud van Nistelrooy to Arjen Robben, have something else in common. They all left.