They say hindsight is 20:20 and that’s certainly the case with Christian Eriksen’s transfer from Spurs to Inter Milan.
When you look back on the saga, it’s clear that no party has come out of it particularly well. Tottenham should regret the way it played out, while Eriksen and Inter also have reason to feel regret.
When Eriksen joined Inter in January, Spurs managed to recoup a fee of £16.9m. It wasn’t a bad deal for a player that only had six months left on his contract, but it was nevertheless a fraction of Eriksen’s worth at one point.
A major failing of the Mauricio Pochettino era was the club’s failure to move on key players at the right time and give the manager the funds to rebuild. The only player who was sold at his peak was Kyle Walker, which was a decision which attracted a lot of criticism at the time. Yet to sell a player at peak value is surely better than to keep an unhappy or ageing player, whose value diminishes. Looking back, there is a strong argument that the club could have looked at selling the likes of Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and of course, Eriksen.
All of those players, for one reason or another, saw their value plummet from their peak. There is no one that is more true for than Eriksen, who at one point could have brought in a nine figure sum.
In 2018, Liverpool sold Philippe Coutinho for an initial £105m, potentially rising to £142m. At the time Spurs were a better side than Liverpool, but the Merseyside club used the funds to buy Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. The rest is history…
Eriksen was considered to be at least the equal of Coutinho at that time by sport websites like bettingspesialisten.com and could have attracted a similar fee, if not bigger. Instead the club held onto the player, which might have been fine if they brought in an understudy to give Eriksen an occasional rest and persuaded him to extend his contract.
In doing neither, Spurs created a scenario when both Eriksen’s stock and form deteriorated. Though Eriksen was clearly tired after the 2018 World Cup, Pochettino had little other option but to continue to play him as often as possible, with the Dane making 51 appearances in 2018-19, which was more than in any other season.
A lethargic Eriksen was dubbed as being lazy and disinterested by fans, who were aware of his refusal to sign a new contract. This in turn seemed to eat away at his confidence. Any hope of a club making a major bid in the summer of 2019 were thwarted, because Eriksen just wasn’t hitting the level needed to convince anyone that they shouldn’t just wait and try to get him on a free transfer this summer instead.
In January, Inter decided to avoid becoming involved in a summer bidding war in which they would probably lose, by buying Eriksen before he became a free agent. It looked a smart move by Inter and at that stage, was the best action for Tottenham too, though for Eriksen it was a questionable decision.
Eriksen reportedly had his sights on a transfer to either Barcelona or Real Madrid. So why not wait until this summer and see if one or both made a move to sign him on a free? At the very least he could fall back on offers from Inter and other big clubs, should Barca and Madrid not be interested.
The temptation to move to Inter in January was probably based on two things. One was his lack of playing time at Spurs, where his new manager Jose Mourinho did not see the point of regularly picking someone that wanted to leave. The other would have been the fact that Inter were competing for the Serie A title and Eriksen had the chance to pick up a medal after many years without one at Tottenham.
Yet since Eriksen signed for Inter, their form has declined. They have lost three of their eight games with Eriksen and trailed Juventus by nine points when the season was suspended. Betting sites such as oddsgurus.de consider it unlikely that Juve will be overhauled.
Now, with the threat of the season being voided a very real one, Inter may have to face up to the truth of having paid a lot of money for a player that has only appeared in eight games and probably won’t get to help them to win a trophy this season.
So everyone’s a loser. Spurs got a fraction of the amount they should have for Eriksen, the player moved to a club that were not part of his career plan and Inter’s purchase now looks less of the bargain that it did at the time. There’s nothing that can be done to turn back the clock, but lessons can certainly be learned.