“It’s not about the money money money
We don’t need your money money money
We just wanna make the world dance
Forget about the price tag.”
Jessie J, Spurs fan and singer-songwriter, 2011
3rd May 2017
We are entering that period of the year when money’s talked about more than trophies. The media looks forward to the click-fest that is the transfer rumour season. Even the Champions League, FA Cup Final and PL title race must share the airwaves with stories about who’s going where, for how much, and why.
In an article in last Sunday’s Telegraph (30 April, Sport p. 5), Jonathan Liew wrote about “Why Tottenham are years behind Arsenal in the battle for supremacy”. Of course, it was pre-NLD fare but it was researched from sources including Forbes, Deloitte and Swiss Ramble. None of the figures he quoted was wrong (to the best of my knowledge).
Jonathan Liew is a good young journalist. I enjoy his articles; elegantly worded, sometimes amusing and constructively provocative. But he’s a journalist, not a businessman. I have no idea what Levy would be like as a columnist but I suspect not great. There’s a reason most of us end up doing what we do. Fans prefer it when Levy sticks to the business side at Spurs. Pochettino can focus on the football. I’ll continue to read Liew’s columns. But I’d back Levy over him on financial stuff every time.
Liew concludes that “the economics of football dictate that while a team like Tottenham or Leicester can fleetingly defy gravity, eventually things shake out.” Well, at face value, that’s a truism it’s hard to disprove. We know the past. We might know the present. But none of us knows the future. However, apparently Leicester’s fall from grace this Season ‘proves’ the economics of football. What goes up, must come down. Mustn’t it? In the end.
The mistake Liew makes is to use the word fleetingly. A full analysis of the past 15 years (which will follow in a future post on this blog) shows that Spurs in general – and Levy in particular – have been ‘fleetingly’ defying gravity throughout that entire period. What’s more, the club has never been stronger. And the trajectory is still upwards. There is absolutely no reason to conclude things must be about to change, other than that truism above.
Each football club has to try to find a way to succeed, according to circumstance. The likes of Ajax, Lyon, now Monaco, have their own business models, just as Man United and PSG have theirs. Spurs too. But under Pochettino Spurs seem to have embarked on a social experiment unique amongst the higher echelons of modern European football. While Levy looks after Plan B (getting Spurs more money), Pochettino’s Plan A doesn’t require waiting for those higher revenues.
At Espanyol (a club with arguably the ‘noisiest neighbour’ of all, in Barcelona), Pochettino immediately displayed three traits; his talent, ruthlessness and lack of reliance on money. He quickly improved their results, sold his friend and captain to another club, dismissed a coach who was godfather to his son, and worked happily within the economic restrictions of the club.
At Spurs, he negotiated his own contract with Levy, the equivalent of putting your hand in the jaws of a lion. Whilst he’s extremely well paid (£5m+ a year) and deservedly so, money evidently isn’t his obsession. He’s old school. And he appears to have assembled a group of young men around him prepared to buy into his way of thinking. Of course, players want to be well paid. Toby Alderweireld is one of the world’s best centre-backs. He’s also 28 years old and understandably wants to enjoy a decent retirement after he stops playing. But if you’re going to be rich anyway, maybe there’s more to life than simply going to the highest bidder?
It’s not all about the money. London life, laughing with your mates, spending your days at one of the best training facilities in football, playing Champions League, having a relationship with your fans that is tangible. These things are important too. Even playing a season at Wembley will be a unique experience. Most players never even get to play there once. And then there’s our new stadium rising into the sky to return to.
‘Job Satisfaction’ is an outmoded term. It would be naïve to claim that fuzzy happiness can fully compensate for money outside of the hippie community. But Ozil and Sanchez are paid more than any Spurs player. Did they play better than ours because of it? Were they even more motivated to try than ours? Did you not see the smiles on our players’ faces and the scowls on theirs? Ours have fun, week in, week out, not just last Sunday.
Sanchez can be a brilliant player on his day. He might even be worth £15 million a year to some club (that’s £300k per week give-or-take). Arsenal or somebody else will probably end up paying him that. But if I were him, I’d forget about the price tag and choose somewhere I could enjoy the rest of my time as a player.
Somewhere where they make their fans dance.
Get well soon Azza
Aaron Lennon was a favourite of mine. Yes, you could query his end-product and delivery, but I loved the way he buzzed around, particularly in that Redknapp team on the right side of a 4-4-1-1. I wish him a speedy recovery from whatever mental health affliction he has.
Spurs 2 Arsenal 0