Martin Cloake, journalist and author of 61: The Spurs Double; The Glory Glory Nights and The Boys from White Hart Lane gives his thoughts on the Gareth Bale transfer and how Daniel Levy used it as an opportunity to build a new team. His latest ebook, Sound of the crowd, has just been released. 

Gareth Bale’s transfer was always going to be about signals as much as anything. The need for all parties to take action that sent signals means we won’t know for some time – if ever – exactly how a deal that would make a cracking thriller plot really did pan out. And what we do think we know about it should be taken with a pinch of salt. But, as an extraordinary transfer window for Spurs draws to a close, some signals that are easier to read.

What is perhaps most remarkable is the signal Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has sent out about the depth of his pragmatism. Because, make no mistake, this summer’s activity is a radical change in approach. The signing of Roberto Soldado was the first signal that something different was happening – and not just because he was the striker the club has needed for so long. With Soldado came none of the sell-on value Levy has insisted on since he and ENIC arrived – this was a big signing on big wages for the here and now, someone to deliver the goals to make Spurs contenders rather than just a prospect.

Along with many other Spurs fans I was delighted with the signing. But it was at about this time that I begin to wonder if the Bale sale tales were true. I argued at the start of the summer that selling the Welsh wonder would be a mistake. My reasoning came down to those signals again – I said a sale would signal that Spurs could not hold on to its best players, and would therefore indicate an embrace of second best. I also doubted whether Real Madrid had the money that would be needed to do the deal – especially as they still owed us a chunk of the Modric money.

All summer long, my friend Norman Giller has been telling me the Bale deal has been done pretty much since the end of last season. When someone with Giller’s experience and contacts says something is true, you don’t easily dismiss it. But I still had my doubts. I couldn’t see where the money was coming from and I couldn’t see the sense in the deal for Spurs. But Giller was right – although his intelligence that the deal was “done” seems to refer to agreement in principle rather than one on financial detail. So it seems that Levy knew early on that Gareth was bent on the Bernabau. And this gave him a choice.

He could take the position Spurs didn’t need to sell, Bale was under contract and, come September 2nd, if he was still on the books he’d need to play. Glenn Hoddle said a few days ago that Levy genuinely wanted to keep Bale, believing the team could push on with him in it. Levy must have been very conscious of sending the signal that Spurs can’t hold on to its players – after all, Wayne Rooney apparently does not want to play for Manchester United, nor Luis Suarez for Liverpool, but it looks like they’ll be reporting for duty. And Bale, along with Suarez and Robin van Persie, was one of the three players in the Premiership who could turn a game out of nowhere.

What persuaded Levy to take a different stance we may never know – at least until someone pulls off the unlikely task of persuading the publicity-shy chairman to tell his story in about 10 years’ time. (Any time you want to get in touch, Daniel…) Perhaps it was the strength of Bale’s desire to go to Madrid, fuelled by the strength of his agent’s desire to earn a good wedge, that persuaded Levy, or perhaps he decided to take a chance. Either way, he’s broken with his past strategy.

The emphasis on sell-on value, the English core, the careful investment, the eye on the future at the expense of the present – all that’s gone. Spurs have become more like Manchester City, buying in ready-made players in bulk to assemble a team that can deliver here and now. Ironically, that looks to have been achieved with the aid of the director of football system. Levy stuck with that even when it proved disastrous under a number of managers, then ditched it when the board’s bungling delivered the Ramos fiasco and the unlikely partnership between Levy and Harry Redknapp was forged, and has now reintroduced it. And the signal all that has sent out is that if Spurs can’t have a superstar, they’ll try to replace him with a superteam.

While Levy seems to like presenting the image of a man with an unbendable will, what comes through most strongly from the last few years is his pragmatism. He recognised what Redknapp could do for the club – although he was arguably backed into a corner when he had to turn to Harry – and broke with his philosophy by taking on an old-school manager. He was also astute, and brave, enough to recognise when the club needed to move on, and braver still in taking a chance on AVB when his stock in England was low. And now, he’s made another break with his past in sanctioning this summer’s extraordinary transfer deals.

Some will say Spurs haven’t really spent at all – the Bale money will cover the outlay on what’s inevitably going to be dubbed The Team That Bale Built. I don’t buy that theory. When you buy something, you need to show the money is going to be there, not simply that it will probably be there. And the theory that an agreed deal wasn’t revealed to prevent the price of our targets going up falls down when you remember that everyone’s assumed Spurs would have the Bale money for months.

But neither am I convinced that leopards change their spots, and the image of Levy and Joe Louis doing a Viv Nicholson and deciding to spend, spend, spend is not a convincing one. You still wonder when payback comes, and you’re still left with many questions about how the complex web of finances stacks up. It would be fascinating to find out the detail, but don’t expect to anytime soon – especially as the business of transmitting signals continues with all parties concerned spinning the figures for their own benefit. Take with a pinch of salt, too, the stories about Bale having the hump with Spurs. Convenient scapegoats reduce collateral damage.

What we will find out sooner is whether Levy’s gamble has worked. It may not be popular on a Spurs blog on a derby weekend to refer to the words of Arsene Wenger, but he’s not entirely wrong when he points out that bringing lots of new players in can affect the balance of a squad. AVB will need all his abilities to make this team gel quickly, otherwise everyone will be on his back.

But it looks sure to be an exciting season. The signing of Erik Lamela is the one that’s really captured my imagination, and Spurs have certainly not signalled an embrace of second best. And that’s down to Daniel Levy’s unexpected pragmatism. As John Motson would say: “Quite remarkable.”

Martin Cloake has been following Spurs since 1970 and is the author of a number of books on the club, including the award-winning 61: The Spurs Double; The Glory Glory Nights and The Boys from White Hart Lane. His latest ebook, Sound of the crowd, has just been released. 



  1. Most of our signings still do have massive sell on Potential, I think the Soldado deal was a matter of who else? We need to be sure this time, also who would put it past Levy moving him on in 2 years for 15 mil?

    I wouldn’t.

  2. Sorry lads, £100 million spent and you can’t replace Monkey Boy nor can you beat The Glorious Gunners..

    “Forever in our Shadow”

    • OK – I will be diplomatic in this one.

      Good game. Good “eleven of hearts” taunt there at the end by the supporters. It was funny, and dug deep, but I respect that.

      Still, you have to have noticed it in the streets by now. We’re still on the up and up. We may have been put down a bit in this one, but it was much closer than you would have liked. Actually, you fear us now. That is not the end all of our hopes, but atleast now, we’re not the little brother anymore. We are equals to Arsenal “now.” I’m not counting your 10+ epl trophies, or fa cups or anything like that, your club has a wonderful history, and I actually admire the way Wenger conducts his business. What I absolutely hate are their idiotic supporters (not you of course). I like you SG, and may even have a cold one with you at the pub one day, but you have to admit, your goonies are taking these taunts just a little too far.

  3. I still can’t recall any club named “Tottenham Hotspur”… I think he already goes to Madrid.

    …bringing too many players will take risky as they need time to get to know each other. – Wenger

    The Gunz 1 – 0 The chicken

    …told you so. – Wenger again.

    BPL is the most dynamic league in Europe so, there’s no time to gel if you want to keep on competition.

    Wenger only brought maximum of 5 players at one season. 3 startes and 2 benchers. That’s called ‘stability’ if you ever heard of it.

      • Yes. Built new stadium, and feel when the enormous debt consume your whole team. Try to manage at the top with the minimum availability. Can you?

        AVB is spoiled brat. You need manager as class as Juergen Klopp to do the clean the mess.

        But I think he is interested to become Wenger successor because Dortmund and Arsenal have similiar financial condition but still can be in top of the league.

        Just.. don’t be a spoiled brat with lots of ‘luxury’ first teamers.

        • I fancy I’m a pretty down to earth hotspur supporter. We have some pretty over the moon supporters here, but really, I think they are just egged on by Arse fans. lol.

          Anyway, by all indications, I do not think our administration will not act like the Arsenal board. While I admire the way Arsenal does it’s business, you have to be silly to say they have really meant it on the pitch. There were a couple seasons where that extra player or two could have won them the league, yet they still wouldn’t sacrifice their future to do it. Well, now they have left it very long and late, just kind of like this transfer window.

          I’m proud of the way we’ve done business this window, however the jury is still out on some of our signings. We’ve spent a lot, but I really question the quality of Capoue, Eriksen, Chadli, and that new defender we just bought. The list is long, but honestly, nobody else was really fighting for these players as well. Willian was the move we were really waiting for, but that crapped out and was hijacked by a worried Chelsea.

          We may have overpaid for Soldado and Lamela, but that’s going to happen in this market. I would like to see if Arsenal will buy anybody better this transfer window.

          But either way, when Podolski comes back in 10 weeks, it will be like another signing?

  4. Disagree with the assertion that there has been a change in policy from Levy and ENIC.

    If Benteke had signed; THFC would not have signed Soldado. Villa wanted 25 million which is roughly what THFC eventually paid for Soldado.

    In hindsight my guess is that Levy and ENIC would have preferred a punt on Benteke for about 20 million. If he scored the goals and continued his form from last season THFC would have had a young player, under contract, who would probably be worth more than they had paid for him.

    THFC prefer to buy players of this sort at age 21 in the hope they will develop into world class players. The players THFC sign at age 24 are usually contract rebels who are worth more than THFC pay or get for free.

    Benteke was first choice but at 25 million was probably regarded as too much of a gamble. Bale’s 26 goals needed to be replaced so Soldado was the pragmatic choice once Benteke was priced out of our range. I think Chelsea may be where he ends up and they probably had something to do with the Benteke deal falling through when you consider what subsequently happened with Willian.

    ENIC and Levy’s business strategy has got THFC to the stage we are at now. The sale of Carrick and subsequently Berbatov ensured the departure of Martin Jol. I doubt Harry Redknapp would have been happy with the sale of first Modric and then Bale.

    Levy has learned from the past. AVB has only spent the Modric and Bale money but a new team has been assembled from the signings last season of Holtby, Siggy, Lloris, Dembele and Vertonghen. This close season has seen Soldado, Paulinho, Capoue, Chadli, Lamela, Chiriches and Eriksen complete the team. Townsend and Rose have been promoted from within and some large wages have been removed from the expenses.

    AVB is a head coach who probably has a say in what happens at THFC but not much more. Levy has successfully restored the status quo with the appointment of Baldini as the transfer man. I can’t see that there has been investment at THFC just shrewd business transactions.

    By the end of this season the club may receive further transfer fees for BAE, Livermore, Lennon, Defoe, Adebayor and one or two others. That money will probably buy the club a new, young striker for around 25 million. All clever business, planned and executed in a professional manner. That is Levy and ENIC.

  5. For Spurs it is all about the team gelling especially ERIKSON AND LAMELA as they will be our most creative players, as we don’t need to be playing a team of talented individuals who dont gel, see Man City.

    The team i envisage AVB to start choosing will be,

    I see Holtby as a direct replacement for Erikson, Dembele/Paulinho, Capoue/Sandro, personally I would like to see Townsend in place of Chadli, and also Fryers given a chance, there was big who har from Fergie on how we got the kid, well if he was worth a Fergie rant lets see him play, Rose & Naughton are only ok, so shouldn’t be a huge ask.
    This season is looking to be a very interesting one, i for one am looking forward to watching it unfold.


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