Spurs and the price of success

A lot has been made about Man City’s huge loss of £197 million and that the days where you can assemble a team to compete on a small budget are long gone, but is this really the case or is the football media jumping on the latest bandwagon where club finances are being ever more closely scrutinised due to the financial failings of the world economy?

I read a piece in The Guardian recently where David Conn wrote:

“To take a club up towards success now cannot be done with a crazy gang of players or a manager of alchemic genius such as Brian Clough. It takes one of the world’s richest men, and £800m, as Manchester City announced on Friday.”

But is this really true? My first thought was that it might well be, but then, having given it more consideration I decided he was completely wrong.

The way I look at it, it doesn’t take £800m as Conn suggests, but rather the money certainly makes it a lot easier. Money is a substitute for what can be done with good coaching, good scouting and good management and the best example of this is Spurs.

Now I know Spurs aren’t exactly the poor unfortunate little club with a tiny budget, a plucky band of quirky players managed by a relative unknown all looking to make names for themselves fighting for the league title against the “big boys” in the plot from some horrible cliched Hollywood take on English football. But neither are they anywhere close to Man City when it comes to their spending to bring success.

This is the Spurs starting line up from their last two league games against QPR and Fulham:

GK Friedel

RB Walker
CB Kaboul
CB King
LB Assou-Ekotto

RM Lennon
CM Parker
CM Modric
LM Bale

AM Van der Vaart

ST Adebayor

Now with the exception of Kaboul for Dawson, I think this is Spurs strongest team. Perhaps you could look to play Bale at left-back and some fans might make a case for Defoe in a classic 4-4-2 but personally I think Spurs play best with Bale in an advanced role and with Van der Vaart operating off a lone front man in a 4-4-1-1.

So how much did their strongest team cost to assemble?

GK Friedel – Free

RB Walker – Combined £9m fee with Kyle Naughton
CB Dawson – Undisclosed thought to be £8m
CB King – Free
LB Assou-Ekotto – Undisclosed thought to be £3.5m

RM Lennon – £1m
CM Parker – £5.5m
CM Modric – £16.5m
LM Bale – Thought to be £10m in total

AM Van der Vaart – £8m

ST Adebayor – On loan – loan fee unknown

So if you take Walker as being worth half the fee paid in total with Naughton at £4.5 the total cost of the team is roughly £57 million, or £7m more than Chelsea paid for Fernando Torres. In the transfer market, value is dictated by all sorts of factors, a clubs need to buy, a clubs need to sell, the players position, reputation, his age and potential.

Taking a chance on younger, unproven players will always come cheaper than buying a player who is thought to be a sure thing. But time and again it is shown just how wrong you can go. Chelsea being a prime candidate paying way over the odds for strikers going back as far as Chris Sutton, Matias Kezman, Andriy Shevchenko and now Torres all of whom failed to score the goals that their price tag suggested was a certainty.

For a record of Man City’s transfer activity in 2011 I return once more to David Conn in The Guardian:

“During the 2010-11 financial year City signed Jérôme Boateng for £10.5m, Edin Dzeko for £27m, David Silva for £26m, Yaya Touré for £24m, Aleksandar Kolarov for £19m, Mario Balotelli for £24m and James Milner for £26m, an extraordinary series of player purchases totalling £156.5m.”

£26m for James Milner is a lot of money when you contrast it with what Spurs have spent, but City had the money and they knew in Milner they were getting a reliable professional who would settle in quickly and be able to “do a job for them” so they were prepared to pay the price. In contrast, Boateng who did not settle has already been moved on to Bayern Munich without City incurring a net loss on the player.

The crux of the matter however lies with Spurs. A look at their side and you see a team filled with “added value”. There isn’t a player in that Spurs side that hasn’t improved and increased significantly in value since they joined the club. This is testament to the coaching team at Spurs and to Harry Redknapp for being able to build a team of players who perhaps either weren’t at the top of everyone’s shopping list or had so far not convinced a Premier League club to stump up the cash required to sign them.

Now I’m not going to make the mistake of the reporter in this video and call Redknapp a “wheeler and dealer”; firstly because I abhor the cliche, but also because it’s not true. He is very much a “fucking football manager”, but at the same time you can’t fault his ability to find value in what is largely a market of over-inflated prices which is what begs the references to Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter.

Redknapp has a first XI at Spurs that can compete with the top clubs. Yes, they did get annihilated by Man City when the teams met at White Hart Lane but if Spurs beat Villa tonight they’ll go 3rd in the league, 4 points behind Man Utd (who beat them comfortably at Old Trafford earlier in the season) but with a game in hand. This Spurs side are improving and I expect their next games against the Manchester sides to be far closer contests. They have certainly improved since they taught the reigning European champions Inter Milan a few lessons in the group stage of last season’s Champions League.

Tinker, Tailor, Wheeler, Dealer - Harry Redknapp

I think you can assemble a team to compete at the top level without a multi-billionaire owner. I think Harry Redknapp has shown it can be done. It is also worth mentioning the progress Newcastle have made this season, which has surprised me and has come without reinvesting much of the money raised from the sale of Andy Carroll, however I think they will struggle to maintain their current form. Whereas I think with luck on their side in terms of injuries Spurs can finish in the top 4 this season and return to playing in the Champions League next season. I think even the most ardent Spurs fan would say that winning the title is beyond them. They would need a huge amount of luck and it would be one hell of a long shot but it’s certainly not 800 million miles away.

Manchester City’s money has “moved the goalposts” when it comes to football finance and squad strength, but Spurs are testament to the fact that if you have good scouting, good coaching and a good manager pulling the strings to weave it all together you can assemble a 1st XI on a budget that in Premier League terms, isn’t nearly as out of reach as many in the footballing media would have you believe.

For Spurs, they need Redknapp to overcome his heart problems and get back in the dugout so he can keep the team improving in his own inimitable style.

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