But this summer is different. Because the transfer window closes this Thursday afternoon, putting the Premier League clubs in a far weaker position compared to their rivals abroad. They have to get their players in this week, while foreign sides can wait until the end of the month. The power dynamic has fundamentally moved against Premier League teams. Look at how Chelsea have been rushed into signing a new goalkeeper, while Real Madrid can wait to sign Thibaut Courtois.
Even more important is the financial cost of the new stadium that Tottenham will move into next month. It is an £850million project, with a £400m bank loan to help pay for it, and of course it has impacted how much money they can spend on new players. Mauricio Pochettino always knew that it would. “The move to the new stadium is not suddenly going to change everything and millions of pounds will rain from the sky,” Pochettino said in April. “You have to manage and know exactly the expectations.”
In practice, this means that Tottenham have to sell before they can buy. Which is certainly an unusual position for a Champions League club, in the richest league in the world, to find themselves in.
All summer Spurs have been trying to sell players to raise the funds to bring in new ones. But as of now, with just over 48 hours left in the window, they have sold no-one and bought no-one. Because Levy is no longer negotiating from a position of strength when the whole football world knows that he needs to sell players, and sell them now.
Toby Alderweireld is top of the list, because he has no interest in signing a new contract and so Spurs have to sell him for big money now rather than for £25m when his clause kicks in next summer. So far no agreement with Manchester United has been made and while they expect him to move for roughly £55m, United are less confident of a deal than they were last week.
Danny Rose has also fallen out of favour, and has been lined up for a move. Chelsea and Manchester United both tried to sign him last August, when Rose gave a newspaper interview trying to force his way out. Tottenham have always insisted that Rose was never for sale, especially in the summer when they sold Kyle Walker to Manchester City. But Chelsea felt as if a deal could be done for £55m, even though they never quite got there.
One year on there is little chance of anyone paying that much money for Rose, and Tottenham have been trying to find a buyer for less. The price has come down to roughly £35m but even then there is still no agreement for Rose to be sold. If he does not leave by Thursday then he still may be sold cut-price to a foreign club later in the transfer window, with long-standing interest in him from Europe.
But with no deals in place yet for Alderweireld and Rose, Spurs’ transfer window still cannot seriously begin. Mousa Dembele had been lined up for a £15m move to China this summer but that has still not materialised, although of course he could go after Thursday’s Premier League deadline. Tottenham would now listen to offers for Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama, as they attempt to raise funds, and reduce their number of non-homegrown players for their Champions League squad, but they have not found buyers yet.
The optimistic view is that if Alderweireld or another player is sold then the lined-up signings can begin. When Levy finally sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for £89m on the last day of the summer 2013 window he had the signings of Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela ready to come in at the same time with the Bale money. Spurs have already been in negotiations with Aston Villa to sign Jack Grealish this summer and with some extra money they could complete the deal. But even if Tottenham sell Alderweireld and sign Grealish there are still other issues in the team that need to be fixed: a third senior centre-back and a dangerous alternative to Harry Kane at the top of the list.
In a sense this is nothing new: Tottenham have barely made a signing to improve their first eleven in the last four years. The players they have spent the most money on, Sissoko, Serge Aurier, Lucas Moura, Vincent Janssen, Fernando Llorente and so on have not made much of an impression. Davinson Sanchez is the only one who has. The Spurs first team is as strong as ever, as long as they all stay fit. But the broader squad, which needs work, is being left behind, as they wait on money to improve it that may never come.
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