Comolli exit imminent as Spurs change direction
Tottenham ready to jettison director of football role after marginalisation of Frenchman
Saturday 11 October 2008
The Tottenham Hotspur hierarchy is debating whether to abandon its director of football system altogether as the sacking of Damien Comolli becomes imminent. The Frenchman is on his way out of the club after their disastrous start to the season and there is pressure on chairman Daniel Levy not to replace Comolli when he does eventually leave.
The Tottenham chairman implemented the system in May 2004 when he appointed Frank Arnesen but four years on Levy is being told by those close to him that Comolli's role has become so marginalised it would not be necessary to replace him. Getting rid of the director of football role would be a major change of direction for Tottenham who became the only club in the Premier League to embrace the system of one man being responsible for recruiting the players and another to coach them.
Levy has been told by those close to him that it would be pointless to replace Comolli because it is the chairman who does most of the deals himself anyway. It was Levy who flew to Zagreb at the end of last season to tie up the £16.5m deal for Luka Modric personally. Often in negotiations Comolli now finds himself acting as little more than a go-between for his chairman who decides the limits of Spurs' buying and selling.
Dispensing with the director of football's role would be a major move because it would remove another buffer between the famously private Levy and the Spurs supporters who are increasingly desperate about the club's start to a season which has left them bottom of the Premier League. Already it has been decided that Comolli, rather than 'head coach' Juande Ramos, will carry the can for the five defeats out of seven.
Comolli, who joined from Arsenal in 2005, was largely an unknown figure working in the background until he emerged as a major player in the plot to get rid of Martin Jol this time last year. In a particularly fiery press conference to mark Ramos's arrival in October last year, Comolli admitted that he would stand or fall by the success of the Spanish coach, although even he could not have predicted that he would go before Ramos.
Comolli is expected to leave within the next few weeks, a decision that is likely to be smoothed over on the understanding that it was "by mutual agreement". His major failing was not so much this summer – blame for the disastrously late sale of Dimitar Berbatov and the failure to replace him adequately has been laid at Levy's door – but the dealings of the previous year. Buying Younes Kaboul, Darren Bent and Kevin-Prince Boateng for a combined total of around £27m did not strengthen his position, especially with Adel Taarabt and Benoit Assou-Ekotto failing to live up to the billing.
As the secondsticked down to midnight on the transfer deadline day of 1 September, and with Tottenham struggling to plug the gap left by Berbatov, Comolli was largely being bypassed by Levy in negotiations for players. When Tottenham brought him into the club as Arnesen's successor they thought they were getting Arsène Wenger's brightest young scout. In fact, as the Arsenal chief scout Steve Rowley noted in an interview somewhat later, the only Arsenal player Comolli had a hand in scouting was Gaël Clichy.
Levy is a powerful figure at Spurs, he has a 20 per cent stake himself through the property and investment company ENIC and he also manages the 60 per cent stake owned by tycoon Joe Lewis. The two other non-executive directors on the board are Sir Keith Mills and Mervyn Davies. However, there is now a very real possibility that the entire structure of the club that Levy implemented will change when Comolli leaves.
Despite the results, Ramos will emerge as a manager in the most traditional sense of the word with a direct line to Levy on who he wants to buy and sell. However, it seems that the one person who is not prepared to change the way he runs Spurs is Levy himself. On the day Ramos was appointed, the secretive Spurs chairman famously squirreled himself away and allowed Comolli to take the flack for Jol's departure. With the Frenchman gone and no one to replace him there will be no option in the future but for Levy to front up.
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