Time for Spurs to make transfer gamble
Andre Villas-Boas appeared to demand a change in Tottenham's transfer policy when he resisted the charms of Paris Saint-Germain to remain as Spurs boss last month, and he is about to discover whether chairman Daniel Levy will deliver on his promises.
When news broke on Monday that Tottenham are refusing to meet Valencia's €30 million asking price for their striker Roberto Soldado, the alarms bells ringing in the office of Villas-Boas and new sporting director Franco Baldini created a din that could be heard in the homes of the club's vast army of supporters.
Tottenham fans have been here before with Mr Levy, whose reputation for shattering expectations when a transfer appears to be imminent has long been one of his traits, and yet this was the summer when many dared to believe the tide was about to turn at Spurs.
The club's bid to sign Soldado was always likely to be the defining moment in their pre-season preparations because if the Spain striker is to be signed, sealed and delivered to White Hart Lane in the coming days, Villas-Boas will have won his stand-off with Levy. The alternative doesn't bear thinking about for all involved.
Levy's long-standing policy of pushing deals to the final hours of a transfer window has been as infuriating as it has been damaging, with doomed plans going a long way to costing Spurs Champions League qualification for the past two seasons. Change was required and while there have been rumblings of a revolution this summer, there are also huge questions that are yet to be answered.
The captures of Brazil midfielder Paulinho and Nacer Chadli from FC Twente were huge steps in the right direction for Villas-Boas and Baldini, yet amid the optimism this summer, a note of concern was offered up by the high-profile signing Spurs failed to secure.
"It is true the idea was for me to go to the Premier League, because the biggest offers came from there," David Villa stated, days after apparently turning his back on a move to Tottenham. "Atletico Madrid showed up and they did more in three days than others did in months."
If Villa's words are taken on face value, this was a case of Villas-Boas and Baldini identifying the player they wanted, paving the way for a transfer to be completed and, seemingly, Levy and his cohorts failing to add the finishing touches to the deal. Add that to the Soldado stand-off with Valencia and a worrying pattern is developing in Tottenham's annual search for a top-class striker.
Spurs fans will confirm this kind of dithering is nothing new. The name of David Villa (and possibly Soldado's) may soon be added to a list that includes Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho, Brazilian forwards Willian and Leandro Damiao, Spain striker Fernando Llorente and French hit-man Loic Remy, who all appeared to be on the brink of a move to Spurs before the deals collapsed at the last.
It has not just been new signings who have been through the Levy transfer treatment. Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp struggled to contain his annoyance as the 2011-12 season kicked off with Spurs embroiled in a transfer wrangle involving Luka Modric and Chelsea, with the club's manager among those urging Levy to get the deal done so he could rebuild his squad.
With the decision over the Croatian's future left until the final days of the transfer window, Tottenham's hopes of a flying start to the season were derailed and Redknapp was left to pick up the pieces of a mess created by his chairman. Spurs missed out on Champions League qualification by a solitary point that season, with their disjoined start to the campaign proving fatal.
Levy could have carried the can for that Champions League near miss in the summer of 2012, yet he chose to blame Redknapp for the failure and replaced him with Villas-Boas, who quickly appreciated that working with Levy can be a frustrating experience.
It was at the end of the last summer transfer window that Levy burst back into the headlines once again, with his belated move to sell Modric to Real Madrid four days before the transfer window closed and then offload Rafael van der Vaart on transfer deadline day leaving Villas-Boas to hope that new last-gasp buys would arrive in their place. They didn't.
So Villas-Boas was left to tackle an arduous Premier League and European campaign with second-rate forwards Emmanuel Adebyaor and Jermain Defoe as his first-choice strikers and, inevitably, a lack of firepower cost Spurs dearly. Villas-Boas did well to drain 72 points from his squad, but a fifth-placed finish was his meagre reward.
Amid his frustration, Villas-Boas went public on his call for the club to recruit a football figure with "dressing room experience" to help with transfer business, in comments that were a direct challenge to the control Levy has exerted over that area of Spurs for the last decade.
Baldini's arrival certainly suggested the chairman was willing to give Villas-Boas the freedom he was asking for, but we may soon discover whether the chairman who has carried so much influence at Tottenham for the last decade is ready to assume the back-seat driver role he would be best suited to.
Villas-Boas is hardly asking for much to have all his transfer trading done before the season gets underway and yet, even with Baldini installed as his transfer guru, the Tottenham boss is waiting to see whether the man above him is ready to give up his controlling stake in the club's transfer business.
Levy will doubtless stand firm over what he will see as Valencia holding him to ransom in the Soldado negotiations, but the truth must be that spending a little over the odds for a striker who could transform your club's future has to be a gamble worth taking.
Not for the first time in recent years, Mr Levy, it's over to you.
LEVY'S DEADLINE DAY SUCCESS STORIES:
Hugo Lloris (from Lyon, August 31 2012, £12m)
Scott Parker (from West Ham, August 31 2011, £5.5m)
Rafael van der Vaart (from Real Madrid, August 31 2010, £8m)
Younes Kaboul (from Portsmouth, January 30 2010, £8m)
Michael Dawson (from Nottingham Forest, January 31 2005, £4m)
LEVY'S DEADLINE DAY FLOPS:
Jermain Jenas (from Newcastle, August 31 2004, £7m)
Grzegorz Rasiak (from Derby, August 31 2004, undisclosed fee)
Alan Hutton (from Rangers, January 30 2008, £9m)
Roman Pavlyuchenko (from Spartak Moscow, August 30 2008, £14m)
Niko Kranjcar (from Portsmouth, September 1 2009, £2.5m)
Clint Dempsey (from Fulham, September 1 2012, £6m)