Spurs plan to move to 'next level' without Gareth Bale
That's the reason for £58m transfer spree, says defender Michael Dawson
Luis Suarez is apparently coming to heel, Wayne Rooney is being kept on a short leash and Tottenham continue to show no sign of releasing their own pedigree pup, the spring-heeled Welsh spaniel Gareth Bale. All of which has prompted the bookmakers to slash odds in the past few days on all three of the summer's three main domestic transfer targets staying exactly where they are.
Bale's case has the makings of another piece of brinkmanship by Tottenham's chairman, Daniel Levy, whose club begin their League campaign at Crystal Palace today claiming the player will not be fit until after the deadline for deals has passed at 11pm a fortnight tomorrow.
Real Madrid, his only suitors, are understood to be upset that he did not make a statement to Spurs by playing for Wales last Wednesday, as Rooney did for England, but it is difficult to see what that would have achieved other than making him available for Tottenham and risking further injury.
Frustrated as they are at Levy's intransigence, Madrid and their coach, Carlo Ancelotti, have been delighted with pre-season form, concluding with an emphatic 3-0 win over Internazionale in the United States. Alvaro Morata, the 20 year-old striker who Andre Villas-Boas would want as part of the deal, started that game and Real's president, Florentino Perez, is adamant that he will not leave in part-exchange.
The line from White Hart Lane, meanwhile, is that the squad has been upgraded with an outlay of some £58m on Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue and Nacer Chadli to replace Clint Dempey, Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker and Steven Caulker.
Discussion of Bale was supposed to be off limits when the captain, Michael Dawson, spoke at the Barclays Premier League's official launch but he wanted to emphasise the dressing-room view: "The goals he scored last season were unbelievable but he couldn't have done that on his own and he'd be the first to say that. We've brought in players that are hopefully going to take us to the next level."
Dawson, while believing he is at "a massive club", has been conscious of a glass ceiling with Tottenham's greatest rivals, Arsenal, always on the other side of it. Five times in his nine seasons at White Hart Lane Spurs have entered the final furlong hoping to secure Champions' League football, but only once have they played there.
"We know Arsenal are a top team but I wouldn't say there's any mental block [about them]," he said. To miss out last year and the year before was unbelievable. We all start on the same number of points and you've got to earn the right but I tend to think you end up where you deserve to."
It was an irritation, nevertheless, that last season's points total, a Spurs record, only earned fifth position and a Europa League place that means a qualifying-round trip to Dinamo Tblisi on Thursday. "Last season our aim was to be in the Champions' League but 72 points still wasn't quite good enough. That's got to be our aim again, starting at Palace. It will be a tough opening game. Ian Holloway, a great character, will have his team rallied up, the place will be rocking and we've got to go there and be on the top of our game."
Bale is out "injured" at the moment, while Dawson could have Younes Kaboul back alongside him, the Frenchman, like Sandro, having recovered from a long injury. They might have been up against a former team-mate in Darren Bent but instead will have to contend with some combination of Dwight Gayle from Peterbrough and Marouane Chamakh.
Holloway, with 800 matches as a manager behind him but only one season in the Premier League, was annoyed at having Bent snatched away by Fulham and had some suitably sharp words about the agents he has come across in trying to build a squad this summer. He promises he and his chairman will learn quickly, and they will have to if Palace are for once to avoid an immediate relegation.
Crystal Palace v Tottenham is on Sky Sports 1, kick-off 1.30pm
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