Tottenham’s recent failed transfers were years in the making

(Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images)
(Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images) /

Tottenham’s recent failed transfers, namely Adama Traore and Luis Diaz, were caused by numerous compounding factors that were years in the making. 

When Fabio Paratici and Antonio Conte joined Tottenham, it was easy, albeit inherently flawed, to think the club’s struggles were a thing of the past. Conte and Paratici, with their imperious standing and stature in world football, would surely be able to flick their magic wand and immediately attract elite talent.

Unfortunately Tottenham’s systemic failures, like rotten wood under a layer of tile, are deeply embedded. To entirely eliminate the rot will take time, patience and a medley of incremental corrective measures.

Many people passionately believe the rot cannot be abolished until ENIC remove themselves entirely from proceedings. There is a way back, but like anything involving Tottenham, it won’t be easy.

Hearing confirmation of Spurs losing out on both primary targets within 24 hours felt like taking a forceful sucker punch to the ribs. The news was both winding and affronting.

Seeing Traore and Diaz ostensibly slip through Tottenham’s fingers didn’t, however, come as a shock. In retrospect, Tottenham never really had a chance at signing either player due to a recurring nature of self-inflicted harm.

There are numerous reasons both Traore and Diaz rejected Tottenham’s advances, all of which correlate directly to the club’s strategic missteps.

A history of lowball bids

ENIC has a long history of making bare minimum, almost insulting, opening bids. Spurs, in the last week alone, offered lowball bids for both Traore and Diaz. Those two incidents are by no means isolated. Tottenham are known to niggle over the asking price, holding firm when a few million pounds might make all the difference.

There’s a discernible difference between being tough negotiators and a club unwilling to pay market value for an asset.

Complete transfer hibernation

In 2018 Tottenham became the first Premier League team not to sign a player for the duration of the summer transfer period. It still to this day has residual implications on the current Spurs side. No recruiting, no reinforcements. Nothing. That well-documented, infamous summer set the wheels in motion on Mauricio Pochettino’s eventual demise. The Argentinian gaffer’s relationship with Daniel Levy started to splinter. Pochettino, not dissimilarly to Conte now, needed support. He needed backing to improve the stagnant on-field product. But none was forthcoming.

Tottenham were preoccupied, the majority of their resources otherwise spoken for (the £1 billion new stadium was still being built), which had an overriding negative impact on the club’s on-pitch prosperity.

Not heeding Mauricio Pochettino’s warnings

The notorious 2018 summer hibernation was the result of Levy not heeding Pochettino’s numerous, boisterous warnings. He repeatedly advised the chairman how desperately the club needed an overhaul, an injection of new blood to refresh and enliven the squad. His numerous attempts to convince Levy failed, and so the team prematurely plateaued, unable to make the final and most important step of all.

After years of banging on the chairman’s door, Pochettino was finally allocated some funds to strengthen the side.

When money was spent, it was spent unwisely

Unfortunately his big-money signings didn’t pan out the way he intended. Spending about £100 million on Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso, both of whom never took flight and are now expected to leave Spurs, Pochettino failed to make the most of the rare kitty afforded to him.

Tottenham’s frugal wage structure

Another factor in Tottenham’s inability to sign top talent is its ingrained frugal wage structure. Simply put, Tottenham cannot, based on their unwillingness to pay elite talent what they deserve, attract the world’s best. Harry Kane, the club’s top earner, earns £200,000 per week. If he played for Manchester City, he’d be earning almost double that.

That stingy strategy has prevented Tottenham from ever becoming a big player on the world’s transfer stage. And it will continue to do so.

An unappealing destination for top talent

That brings us back to why Traore and Diaz decided to reject Spurs’ advances. In fairness, there were a few extenuating reasons in Traore’s case. He wanted to return to his hometown team and had little interest in learning a new, unfamiliar position under Conte. Those reasons are no fault of Tottenham’s and, on their own merit, made signing Traore additionally challenging.

Those reasons aside, the prospect of Champions League football was too appealing for Diaz and Traore. Additionally, it’s hard to ignore the resounding recent success of Liverpool and Barcelona, especially when placed side by side with Tottenham and its 14-year trophy-less dry patch.

All of the determining factors were caused by Tottenham’s historic and repeated missteps. Gradual, incremental wins are now required before Tottenham can become an appealing destination for the world’s best.

Paratici's relationship with Juventus starting to bear fruit. dark. Next

First, Tottenham must qualify for the Champions League, which the likes of Dejan Kulusevski should help with. Then Tottenham must be willing to pay the asking price for club’s most prized assets, after which competitive, market-value wages must be offered.

In the unlikely event all those requirements are met, Conte’s incomparable influence will prove decisive in convincing elite talent to commit to Tottenham. Until then, Conte can only do so much.