Gareth Bale to Tottenham – The full picture

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Gareth Bale is on the verge of making a shock return to Tottenham Hotspur.

Almost seven-years on from his record breaking departure, a route back to London seems like the Welsh wonder’s best escape from limbo at Real Madrid.

Despite his obvious talents, Bale & Real have become a poor fit as they years have gone by, and now he’s set for the exit door, with Spurs waiting to pounce

Bale to Spurs – What we know


 It is time for Tottenham Hotspur fans to get excited.

Gareth Bale is coming home. And not only that, but he will be joined by Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Reguilon too.

Talks over a double deal have ramped up in the last couple of days and the transfer negotiations have reached such a stage that Spurs are preparing to announce both deals before the end of this week.

football.london understands that the club hope to announce the transfers on Friday, ahead of this weekend’s Premier League game against Southampton.

Bale has been linked with a return to Tottenham almost every transfer window since leaving N17 to become the then most expensive player in the world in 2013.

Reguilon has also had suitors from other Premier League clubs, namely Chelsea and Manchester United, but it is Spurs who have won the race for his signature.

The 23-year-old will move to north London on a permanent deal, thought to be in the region of £27million, although Real Madrid have insisted on having a buy-back option in the deal.

Reports have suggested that buyback clause is for around £10million more than the initial fee, so £37million and it has been reported that it will remain in place for two years.

Having buyback clauses in deals is not something Daniel Levy or the club like doing, but they were so intent on securing the services of one of Europe’s most promising full-backs that they accepted Real Madrid’s terms.

Bale, on the other hand, is a loan deal and there have been plenty of negotiations between the two clubs and Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett over the terms of that loan.

His salary at the Bernabeu has always been the sticking point when it came to hopes of Bale returning to Tottenham, but the clubs have no come to an agreement whereby Los Blancos subsidise some of his wages during his loan spell.

That split is understood to be 60-40 in favour of Madrid, with Spurs paying around 40% of his wages while on loan.

Tottenham are preparing to unveil both players on Friday, with the duo having completed MRI scans and the majority of their medicals in Spain.

Bale was at Real Madrid’s training ground on Thursday as the deal between the two clubs reaches its conclusion.

That is not likely to be the end of Tottenham’s transfer window business, with Jose Mourinho still focused on adding another striker to his ranks, while a new centre-back also remains a priority.

Dier: Bale move ‘exciting’


 Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier says the signing Gareth Bale is “exciting” for supporters, but admits Spurs’ players have not discussed the move.

Speaking ahead of Spurs’ Europa League qualifier against Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Dier was asked about the Bale news from the dressing room’s perspective.

“No, nothing on the WhatsApp group,” Dier told reporters, when asked how Tottenham’s players reacted to the reports. “Obviously there’s a lot of speculation and it’s not for me to speculate on.

“I’m sure from the fans’ point of view it’s very exciting to be linked with a player of that level. It doesn’t affect me personally. It’s not the first time there’s been a player linked with going here or there.”

When does Bale need to be registered by?

The pair of arrivals are set to be announced on Friday, football.london understands, with the aim of getting both Bale & Reguilon through the door in time for Sunday’s game at Southampton.

Spurs travel to the south coast for their second game of the Premier League season.

Mourinho’s side began the campaign with a 1-0 defeat at home to Everton so will be looking to bounce back from that disappointing result.

According to Premier League rules, players must be registered by 12pm on the Friday if they want to participate in the matches over the weekend.

It means Spurs are in a race against time to get both Bale and Reguilon signed on the dotted line by midday on Friday, September 18, if they want them to feature against Saints.

How a new-look Spurs could line up

Spurs will confirm both Bale and his Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Reguilon before the end of the transfer window.

Jose Mourinho’s double swoop will bring back Bale, and add Reguilon to the side for the 20/21 season.

Manchester United were also potentially tracking Reguilon, but Spurs leapt ahead of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in the race to sign the Spanish international.

The return of Bale would be a major boost for Spurs ahead of the 2020/21 season getting into full flight, and the arrival of Reguilon could signal a change in approach from Mourinho as part of a full-back partnership with summer signing Matt Doherty.

Spurs could be set for a new look, and at football.london we’ve got you covered. CLICK HERE to see how we think Spurs 2020 will shape-up as the deadline approaches.

A Bale return makes sense!

Barely a transfer window has passed since Gareth Bale left Tottenham in 2013 that the Welshman has not been linked with a return to N17 – but a 2020 return makes a lot of sense, writes Graham Ruthven.

The Welshman was Spurs’ best player in a generation and one of the best to have ever played in the Premier League.

But is there a chance he could return this summer? Football.london understands that Spurs are set to secure a return.

The 31-year-old is a peripheral figure at Real Madrid, with Zinedine Zidane making clear the Welshman has no real future in the Spanish capital.

Until recently, though, it appeared that Bale would simply sit out his lucrative €15 million-a-year contract on the bench. The winger is said to enjoy the lifestyle in Spain and was in no rush to make a move elsewhere. The situation, however, has changed with the news Real Madrid would be willing to pay 50% of Bale’s wages just to get him out the door (as per the Telegraph).

This makes the 31-year-old a much more realistic target for Spurs, who without this subsidy wouldn’t have been able to pay Bale’s £600,000 weekly wage. They might still struggle to pay half that, but at least a loan move, as is most likely, is now within the realms of possibility. A return could be on the cards.

Bale’s return would undeniably come attached with a certain sentimental element. As already referenced, the Welshman was Tottenham’s best player in a generation. It hurt to watch someone of his quality leave so early in his career and so his return would be a public relations victory for Daniel Levy and the club hierarchy.

His signing would also serve a tactical purpose for Jose Mourinho too. While Lucas Moura has been favoured on the right side of the Spurs attack since the arrival of the Portuguese coach last season, it is widely seen as the team’s weakest position. While Tottenham have a number of options on the left side, their depth on the right is lacking.

Moura’s efforts in Amsterdam made him a Tottenham legend, but it’s reasonable to question whether the Brazilian is producing enough on a regular basis. Last season saw him score four times and assist a further four in 35 Premier League appearances. Compare that to some of his peers in the same division (Mohamed Salah, Raheem Sterling, Mason Greenwood) and Moura’s output is lacking.

As a physical force, Bale has faded in recent seasons, with injuries a persistent issue. But if Spurs could get the Welshman fit and firing, he would be a clear upgrade on Moura on the right side of Mourinho’s attack. This is a player who, despite everything, has still managed to score 80 times in 171 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid.

Bale is a different sort of player now to the one that left Spurs in 2013. Back then he was a mercurial winger capable of scoring stunning long-range strikes. Those long-range strikes still occur from time to time, but the Welshman isn’t as explosive as he used to be. It’s debatable whether he could even be described as a winger anymore, morphing into more of a wide forward over time.

Nonetheless, the addition of Bale to Mourinho’s squad, even on a short term loan basis, would be a good one. The Welshman would provide goal threat from the edge of the box, not to mention set piece potency and a threat in the air. It just so happens to be a bonus that Tottenham would probably sell an unprecedented number of shirts with his name on the back too.

Gareth Bale: Tottenham in talks to sign Real Madrid winger on loan

By Tom Kershaw, The Sun

Tottenham Hotspur are in talks to sign Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale on loan.

Madrid are desperate to offload Bale’s exorbitant wages and are willing to partially subsidise a deal in order to facilitate the 31-year-old’s return to the Premier League.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, said: “Gareth still loves Spurs. We are talking [Spurs, Real and Bale’s camp]. It’s where he wants to be.”

Bale joined Madrid from Spurs in 2013 for a then-world record £85m fee and has since gone on to win four Champions League titles. However, his relationship with manager Zinedine Zidane is all but broken and the Welsh international barely featured following the lockdown.

While on international duty with Wales at the start of the month, Bale admitted that he was open to returning to England but that Madrid were making any move “difficult”.

“I tried to leave last year but they [Real Madrid] blocked everything at the last second,” Bale told Sky Sports.

“It was a project I was excited for last year but it didn’t materialise. And there have been other instances but the club won’t allow it or something, so it’s up to the club.

“I want to play football. I’m still motivated to play football. I’m 31 but I’m in great shape still and I feel I’ve got a lot to give.

“We’ll see what happens. It’s in the club’s hands and they make things very difficult to be honest.”

Spurs are also in talks to sign Madrid full-back Sergio Reguilon, who had attracted interest from Manchester United, too.

Reguilon, who won the Europa League while on loan at Sevilla last season, is also out of favour under Zidane, although Madrid are thought to want to include a buy-back clause in a deal worth around £25m.

PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYER WATCH: PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG

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With two and a half years spent as a youngster at Bayern Munich, where in the final 18 months he learned from Pep Guardiola, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg enjoyed a footballing education that is comparable with the best. Guardiola took a shine to the teenage Hojbjerg and wondered if the Dane could become Bayern’s answer to Sergio Busquets – who Guardiola coached at Barcelona – in defensive midfield.

Tactical Analysis


Hojbjerg has proved versatile throughout his career, playing in a variety of midfield positions for Bayern and even filling in at both right-back and left-back on two occasions for Southampton in 2019/20. However, his best position – and where he has naturally settled – has always been in defensive midfield.

He has not developed, as Guardiola had once hoped, into a player of Busquets’ ability. Far from it, in fact – the Spaniard controls entire games by winning the ball and playing passes that dictate the pace of the match. Fizzed, direct balls to attackers that instantly increase the tempo of play; or a turn away from trouble and a pass to a teammate in space that can slow proceedings to a near-halt when looking to see out a win.

Hojbjerg has not been able to do that at Southampton, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t an effective defensive midfielder. He consistently breaks up play, with both good positioning and active attempts to win the ball. His reading of the game is his biggest strength, and he could still become a player capable of dominating games – something that would be far more achievable at a team that controls possession more than Hassenhüttl’s Southampton.

The Dane does his best work sitting in front of defence, protecting the centre-backs and waiting for his chance to eliminate danger. Guardiola was particularly impressed with the young Hojbjerg’s anticipation and his natural ability to foresee opportunities to win the ball, and that is a significant part of what makes him so useful at Southampton. Only three midfielders, Wilfred Ndidi, Oliver Norwood and teammate James Ward-Prowse, made more regains in the 2019/20 Premier League than Hojbjerg, who also started just 30 of Southampton’s 38 matches.

He makes intelligent decisions when anticipating the opposition’s threat, both when judging when to leave the midfield line to press (above) and when to hold his position to protect the middle of the pitch. He also does a similarly effective job during defensive transitions, in deciding when to counter-press and when to drop back into position. He prefers defending on the front foot in those scenarios to try and stop a counter-attack early on, and he is largely successful, though he has also occasionally left his team a little too open after pressing too enthusiastically.

Role at Southampton


Hojbjerg is capable of playing in a midfield two, having spent much of 2019/20 alongside Ward-Prowse in Southampton’s 4-4-2 formation. He is very disciplined with his positioning, and sits deep to free up his central midfield partner and their wide players to roam forward. He marshals Southampton’s midfield, keeping them compact and narrow when out of possession (below) before playing passes that allow that midfield to expand once the ball has been won.

There are also numerous occasions when Southampton’s central midfielders swap roles during games, in what is a more traditional way of playing with a 4-4-2 – the two alternate between going forward and sitting deep. Hojbjerg is an intelligent player who can adapt, depending on the opponent and what is asked of him by his manager, and he supports Southampton’s attacks when needed – even if he got forward less in 2019/20 than in previous seasons.

In possession, he shows a good sense of awareness and is regularly seen directing his teammates’ movements – his leadership qualities will have contributed to Hughes’ decision to make him Southampton’s captain. Receiving possession in defensive midfield means he rarely does so free from pressure, but he uses this to his advantage. He looks to receive vertical passes from central defence, to entice an opposition midfielder out of position, before bouncing a pass back into a defender. He then moves beyond his opponent, hoping to receive the next pass goal-side of that opponent and providing a crucial method for Southampton to progress play through central areas.

He has always been a tidy ball-player, but in 2019/20 was challenged by Hassenhüttl to be more adventurous, contributing to his pass completion rate dropping significantly compared to previously at Southampton, and even further from his time at Bayern. When Southampton have the ball they line up in a 2-4-4 structure in which their full-backs and wide midfielders push forwards. Hojbjerg holds his position, picks up possession from defence in front of the opposition’s midfield, and looks to progress play to their front four.

He therefore provides support to attacks and rarely moves ahead of play, offering a pass through which to recycle possession (above). This discipline allows their full-backs to advance and provide width to Southampton’s attacks, means he regularly receives passes while facing forwards, and, like Busquets, can maintain the pace of an attack by moving the ball quickly.

Clearly, comparisons with Busquets are a stretch – Hojbjerg is a good quality central midfielder who has some similar attributes to the Spaniard, but he has neither fulfilled his potential nor come close to achieving what Guardiola had hoped.

What Daniel Levy’s Tottenham restructuring means for transfers and everyday operations

By Alasdair Gold, Football.London

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has continued the club’s summer overhaul behind the scenes with the belief that it will improve how they operate on and off the pitch in the future.

Last month the club announced structural changes to their youth section following the departure of long-time academy head John McDermott.

Academy manager Dean Rastrick has taken charge, flanked by the experienced former Charlton boss Chris Powell and ex-Spurs player Ryan Mason.

Now the club have finalised the transformation of what happens above with the first team and football operations.

Steve Hitchen, who has worked closely with Jose Mourinho since the Portuguese’s arrival in November, takes the step up from chief scout into what is an expanded form of a classic director of football role.

The 43-year-old has essentially been performing in a director of football capacity at Tottenham for some time, but his appointment on Tuesday as Technical Performance Director makes it official in a role with wide-ranging duties.

Hitchen will have increased responsibility across both the first team and academy when it comes to scouting, performance and recruitment.

It continues the journey of Hitchen at Spurs where, after hanging up his boots as a player, he began to work as a European scout, while living in France, before moving with Damien Comolli to Liverpool.

He is credited with scouting both the young Luka Modric and Luis Suarez extensively and encouraging Spurs and Liverpool respectively to sign them.

After taking key recruitment roles at QPR and then Derby, he returned to Spurs in 2017 as chief scout in the wake of head of recruitment Paul Mitchell’s resignation.

Over the coming years Hitchen’s role morphed more and more into a director of football one and he enjoyed a strong relationship with Mauricio Pochettino.

Mourinho has been impressed with the recruitment man and has been working closely with him and Levy in securing his and the club’s targets.

The Portuguese has admitted enjoying working with the former Macclesfield Town defender and praised him and the chairman at the weekend for the bargain £13.4million capture of right-back Matt Doherty from Wolves.

The club also announced a key new arrival on Tuesday in former Swansea City chairman and Chelsea, Leeds and Everton CEO Trevor Birch.

As a former Shrewsbury Town midfielder and chartered accountant, the 62-year-old will bring his unique football know-how and experience to a role that will see him take charge of operations at the club’s Hotspur Way training complex.

In his position as Director of Football Operations, Spurs believe Birch will add extra resources with his knowledge of the industry to the newly-formed Football Board.

Levy will chair the board, which will be made up of Birch, Hitchen and the club’s former Director of Football Operations Rebecca Caplehorn

The truth behind document that claims Daniel Levy is in talks to sell Tottenham

By Alasdair Gold Football.London

A document claiming to be an indication that Tottenham Hotspur is up for sale has been getting the fans talking, but is there any truth behind it?

The emailed takeover document, which has been circulating around social media and WhatsApp groups, is titled Project London, and labelled as ‘strictly confidential’ and speaks about buying into a Premier League club.

It is presented as a document from Strategic Growth Investments, a real firm that “acts as a constructive intermediary between collaborative capital sources and compelling investment opportunities”.

The detailed sheet of paper claims: “Strategic Growth Investments has the unique opportunity to invest in, or acquire a controlling interest in, a top performing English Premier League club in London.

“SGI is currently in direct discussions with the decision-makers of the team in regards to a private sale of the majority ownership position (75 per cent) at a valuation between £1.25billion ($1.65billion) and £1.5billion ($2billion).

“This is a compelling, rarely available opportunity to invest in a well-managed, profitable team with the ability to generate returns via current income as well as long-term capital appreciation.”

While the club is never named throughout, there are enough obvious clues to suggest which one it is.

This include: “The club has one of today’s most popular English footballers, along with one of the most recognizable (sic) Asian footballers the world has seen to date, creating great brand appeal and further sponsorship opportunities in a large global market.”

The document also explains that “the club’s world class stadium hosts international sports events, including NFL and rugby games in Europe, as well as non-sporting events.”

It adds: “This transaction includes prime real estate, already with approval plans, for luxury real estate, including retail, sports complexes, museums and hotel development of the adjacent lands.”

It also speaks about “a large marketing opportunity for investor, including naming rights to the stadium and other sponsorship”.

The document asks for indications of interesting from potential limited partners by Sunday August 30 with a letter of intent submitted by Monday August 31.

Tottenham are owned by ENIC, who are part of the Bahamas-based private investment organisation Tavistock Group owned by billionaire Joe Lewis.

Chairman Daniel Levy said back in March at a meeting with the Supporters’ Trust that there was “no intention to sell and that no valuation had been made of the equity value” of the club.

Tottenham may be presented with a chance to solve their right-back problem thanks to Arsenal

ByGraham Ruthven, Football.London

The Gunners are prepared to let Ainsley Maitland-Niles leave the Emirates and that could be the opportunity that Spurs need to sign their own new right-back

Tottenham Hotspur’s desperate need for a new right-back has been apparent since Kieran Trippier was offloaded to Atletico Madrid with no replacement signed.

Jose Mourinho favoured Serge Aurier in the position last term, but the Ivorian was something of a liability due to the sheer number of blunders made and could be sold to AC Milan this summer.

A number of potential right-back options for Spurs have been mooted over the past few weeks, with Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles recently named as a target.

The 22-year-old is versatile and believed to be a favourite of Mourinho’s. But Arsenal slapped a £20 million asking price on the player, as per the Daily Mail.

Now, however, it seems Maitland-Niles is on the brink of spurning Tottenham’s supposed interest to sign for Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Athletic’s David Ornstein claims Maitland-Niles will join for the Molineux outfit this week as he searches for the regular first-team football he is currently being denied at the Emirates Stadium.

Wolves’ signing of Maitland-Niles from Arsenal may free up Matt Doherty to leave Molineux this summer, with the Republic of Ireland international potentially an even better fit for Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur side.

Doherty has been a revelation for Wolves since their promotion to the Premier League two years ago. Last season saw the 28-year-old make 49 appearances in all competitions for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, scoring six goals and recording four assists.

It’s now difficult to imagine a Wolves team without Doherty down the right flank.

While Mourinho is renowned for his defensive and conservative tendencies, he likes his full-backs to push high up the pitch to provide an outlet.

Aurier does this, explaining why the Spurs manager has stood by the Ivorian even as the crescendo for him to be dropped grew louder.

Doherty plays even higher up the pitch than Aurier, with the Irishman a fully-fledged wing-back in Nuno’s system which frequently sees Wolves play with a back three.

Doherty is one of the reasons Wolves are able to play this way. A back three is a difficult thing to master, but in the Irishman, they have someone who suits this system perfectly.

Last season, Doherty averaged 0.8 dribbles per Premier League match, as per WhoScored, as well as one shot per game.

This reveals the goal threat the right wing-back carries, explaining his goal tally for the 2019/20 season – there aren’t many in Doherty’s position who can claim to be so dangerous in front of goal.

Wolves’ game is very dependent on spinning their attacking players in behind defences and Doherty helped in this respect by playing 1.3 long balls per game last season.

Mourinho has shown a willingness to get his wide men, in particular, to play in this way, with Harry Kane dropping deep to release space in behind. Doherty could help with the implementation of this specific game plan.

Mourinho has a lot of work to do in reshaping the squad at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to his liking.

There are a number of areas where his team are currently lacking and with the noises out of Spurs that any transfers will have to be done on a shoestring budget.

In Doherty, though, Mourinho would find a player to solve one of his biggest problems. The only issue may be the price.

Skriniar talks, Winks to Man City, Willian admission

ByConnor O’NeillSports Wire Writer Football. London

Plenty of rumours are circling as to what business Tottenham Hotspur could look to do this summer

Jose Mourinho has a big job on his hands as he looks to put his stamp on his squad, following what was a somewhat disappointing campaign.

And with Spurs set to go through qualification for next season’s Europa League, the Portuguese will need to add some reinforcements soon.

Here are the latest transfer rumours and gossip coming from north London.

Willian admission

Tottenham Hotspur never actually made contact to sign Willian before his move to Arsenal, ESPN have reported.

Spurs were heavily linked with the Brazilian for large parts of this year given his relationship with Jose Mourinho.

And although the former Chelsea winger opted to join Arsenal last week, it is now believed there was never no interest from Spurs in the 32-year-old.

Tuttosport claim that Spurs have intensified their talks with Inter Milan over a deal for Milan Skriniar.

Any potential deal is still some way off but talks are said to be ongoing between the two clubs.

Inter are reportedly open to allowing the 25-year-old to leave provided they can find a replacement.

Winks backed for City move

Former Tottenham midfielder Michael Brown believes Harry Winks would be an “excellent addition” for Manchester City this summer.

A recent report claimed Pep Guardiola is a big fan of the £40million-rated 24-year-old and has told the club to make a move for him this summer.

“It could help him improve as a player, the way Manchester City play, he’s a great link player and is really talented – in possession we’ve seen how he protects the back-four, how he can move the ball around,” Brown told Football Insider.

“I think he’d be a great addition for Manchester City.

“We don’t know what the price will be, he’s a talented footballer and I think one, Spurs won’t want to let him go and two, he would be an excellent addition, something slightly different to Manchester City.”

Jose has finally found his perfect player to make his Tottenham vision become a reality

By Rob Guest, Football.London

The former Southampton man has penned a five-year deal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after completing his move on Tuesday evening.

It was on Tuesday evening when Tottenham finally confirmed the long-awaited arrival of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton.

Heavily tipped to seal a move to the capital since January, the 25-year-old, amid interest from Everton, penned a five-year contract to commit his long-term future to the Lilywhites.

Perhaps not the most glamorous signing and one fans may not have been very enthusiastic about, the Dane won many over with his first words after joining forces with Jose Mourinho.

“I like to bring energy, I like to bring wins – hopefully! I just think you get me, 100 per cent. I love to be the best team player I can be and I like to make people better, I like to make the team better and I think it’s important to be aware of what your role is, who you’re playing against and what is demanded from you. Many of the small details all go into one big important thing.

“From the first moment I got to speak to the people at the club, the coach, I think it was very clear to me that Spurs is a very big club but also a club with even more potential to reach the ultimate, and I wanted so much to be a part of that. I think there is a fantastic future ahead for the club and hopefully for me as well.”

Rated incredibly highly by Pep Guardiola following their time together at Bayern Munich before the midfielder moved to Southampton in 2016, Spurs have signed a winner.

Despite his tender year after only turning 25 one week ago, Hojbjerg leads by example on the pitch and that is exactly why Ralph Hasenhuttl made him captain shortly after taking on the job in December 2018.

The ex-Schalke loanee’s leadership skills will undoubtedly appeal to the head coach given Spurs’ lack of natural commanders in the squad, as well as the fact that he is a typical Mourinho player.

The 57-year-old adores players who give their all and make huge sacrifices for the team, and Hojbjerg will do exactly that.

As he mentioned in his first interview with the club, he loves to be the best team player he can be and also make people and the team better.

It was literally music to the ears of Mourinho and Tottenham fans, with those initially sceptical about his arrival no doubt extremely impressed with what he had to say.

Hojbjerg also waxed lyrical about the coaching staff and his new teammates during his interview, as well as mentioning his desire to improve and become an even better player following his exploits at Southampton.

“I think Spurs have fantastic players, a fantastic manager, a fantastic set-up and I feel lucky and proud to be a part of it,” explained the Danish international.

“I want to give my everything but I also want to learn a lot. I want to be better and what was very important for me is that I wanted to play at a club where I could see myself for many years – and Tottenham was just the one. So I’m very happy and proud to be here.

Alasdair Gold latest email

Hello everyone,

The summer transfer window is when Daniel Levy comes alive.

That’s not to say he’s a vampire who only emerges the moment that window (rather than the coffin lid) opens, but plenty of those who have worked with him say the 58-year-old thrives on the buzz of the trading nature of the summer window.

January is a tough time to do deals, coming in mid-season when most of the clubs Spurs target players from aren’t looking to unsettle their squads for fear of the consequences come the end of the campaign.

The summer – this one in particular – presents 10 weeks for Levy to do what he enjoys more than anything – conduct business.

The Essex-born chairman is a workaholic. The staff members who answer to him are not surprised when their phone pings at 2am or 3am with an email from Levy about an idea he’s had or something he wants to check on.

They expect it and they also know that after the briefest of breaks those emails will start again at 5am or 6am when he starts the next day.

Levy has a mentality of leading from the front. If he works harder than anyone else then they can only follow his example or come out with excuses.

He takes it all personally and he suffered when the stadium construction fell behind schedule, because it was something he had been so hands-on with, involved day in, day out, but the problems were outside of his control.

His standards and work ethic can make him a difficult person to work with and Mauricio Pochettino, who had a closer relationship with Levy than any other Spurs manager of the 20 years of his chairmanship, admitted he’s not an easy man to get close to.

“We have shared a lot of different moments,” said the Argentine. “He is not an easy man, but he is so passionate to create some things for the fans and the staff and the players.

“It is not for him. One example – he built the hotel here. The Lodge. It’s a five-star boutique hotel. I asked him when he is going to sleep there and he said: ‘No, no, no. Not for me. That is for you and the players’.

“He is always thinking to do things for other people, and of course, for the fans. That is a fantastic thing but the people sometimes struggle to understand.

“When the team wins the praise is for the players, the coaching staff or the manager. When it loses, the first person is him that the people blame. 

“Sometimes deserved! Sometimes, no. I think he deserves fantastic recognition because what he’s doing, him and the board, is a fantastic thing for the club and it’s going to be there forever.”

With Tottenham’s mess of a season on the pitch, with Pochettino’s departure and Jose Mourinho’s arrival, so that spotlight continues to be thrust upon Levy.

There’s a feeling among some Spurs fans that Levy is always looking to save a buck, providing the club with the budget version of transfers rather than the real deal.

Ironically that’s at odds with how those on the stadium project spoke about Levy, saying that he would often go the other way too much, complaining that things looked tacky and plastic and needed replacing with higher quality products and materials.

Tottenham fans want Levy to show that same kind of attitude with on-pitch matters, but ultimately his decisions will always be dictated by those budgets the club is placed under.

Forget Joe Lewis and his billions. Tottenham Hotspur not a billionaire’s play thing. It’s a company found within a large portfolio of ENIC investments and it’s run as a self-sustaining business.

Levy as a Spurs fan himself has declared that he is merely the current custodian of the football club and that his sole aim is to make sure Tottenham Hotspur grows and exists for future fans.

With his first class honours degree in Economics and Land Economy, gained back in 1985 from Cambridge University, ensuring a business is properly run is what Levy has been trained for since the beginning.

The way he runs Spurs frustrates the fans and at times his staff. He’s portrayed by some supporters as a Dr Evil-type character, sitting in a chair, stroking his cat as he ruminates over the newest dastardly scheme he’s hatched.

Yet in a year when many football clubs are facing real problems from the shutdown, making redundancies and cutting their costs, Tottenham will be better placed than others to bounce back from their estimated £200million in lost revenue over the next 12 months in the years to come, particularly when the increased stadium revenue can kick back in.

Levy takes the criticism directed at him and he also listens to more of it than you would think.

He once said at a supporters’ trust meeting that he has broad shoulders and can take the anger that comes his way.

However, it’s also known within Spurs that he does keep a close eye on social media, many at the club do.

Social media is where you will find the most extreme views going about any subject and it’s an unpleasant place at times, but Levy is well aware of what’s being said about him and the club.

He’s also well aware of what is written by the media. This reporter in particular has been chastised indirectly a couple of times for articles that caught his eye over the years, but that’s journalism.

As long as it’s accurate, you have to accept that you’re not going to please everybody and nor should you try to.

Ultimately Levy does what he believes is best for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

The current deal for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton is indicative of that. Jose Mourinho wants the player and the player wants Spurs.

Spurs first enquired about the Dane back in January but they waited until the price was right and now they have moved.

While it’s not a swap deal for accountancy reasons, Kyle Walker-Peters’ separate move in the other direction means that, whatever fees you read in the days to come, ultimately Mourinho will get a player he wants in a problem position for a cash outlay of just £3million. You can find the full details by clicking here.

Levy has always had a soft spot for Walker-Peters, a homegrown academy product, but in a year when transfer funds have to be managed more tightly than ever the 23-year-old, having loved his time with the Saints, became a willing pawn in the ‘trade’.

Spurs will make more signings this summer and players will leave the club, all in keeping with the detailed and frequent reports Mourinho sends to Levy and others each week.

The Portuguese is well aware of the limitations and believes the club’s top targets for each position are all realistic and within the budgets. It’s down to Levy to get them.

Tottenham need to be better, they need to bounce back and Levy will want to deliver for Mourinho and you know he will relish the challenge. 

Unlike Daniel Levy I’ve got a couple of weeks off coming up now, but this newsletter and I will return with a vengeance later this month, timing nicely with Spurs getting into the nitty gritty of pre-season and the transfer window.

I’ll catch you then,

Alasdair

Championship play-off final: Brentford and Fulham set for richest game
By Rob Stevens
BBC Sport

Brentford play Fulham on Tuesday for the chance to return to the English top flight for the first time in 73 years – and earn about £160m in the process.

The west London rivals, separated by just four miles, meet in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Fulham could seal an immediate return to the Premier League.

Victory in the match, often dubbed the richest game in football, would be worth £135m to Fulham and about £160m to Brentford over the next three years.

Brentford finished third in the table, one place above Fulham on goal difference, and won both league meetings during the regular campaign.

If they fail to win, the Bees will have taken part in more unsuccessful play-off campaigns in the English Football League than any other club, with this their ninth attempt.

Free-flowing Bees eye historic promotion
Brentford recorded eight straight victories either side of the coronavirus lockdown to give themselves a chance of automatic promotion, but narrowly missed out on a place in the top two following defeats in their final two matches of the season.

Head coach Thomas Frank, who was appointed in October 2018, has moulded an attacking side which finished as the top scorers in the Championship this season.

Including their play-off semi-final win over Swansea, their forward line of Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins have scored 59 goals between them – but the Bees also have the second-best defensive record in the division.

“We have big ambitions and big dreams,” Frank said. “We believe in ourselves but need to go to Wembley confident but humble.”

The Bees have enjoyed their best campaign since suffering relegation from the top flight in 1946-47 and will move into a new 17,500-capacity stadium before next season.

Opponents Fulham spent 13 consecutive seasons in the top flight before dropping back into the Championship in 2014, and Slavisa Jokanovic led the Craven Cottage outfit to promotion via the play-off final two years ago.

“They are a bigger club than us,” Frank said. “This is not a mind-game, this is a fact.

“They got relegated from the Premier League last year and have the parachute money.

“They have experience from the final two years ago and they have more experience in their squad to play a game like this than us.

“Yes, we beat them twice [this season] and that can maybe give us a bit of confidence. But the final is another story.”

Parker revives Fulham fortunes

When Scott Parker took over Fulham in February 2019, initially on a caretaker basis after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, the Whites were heading for relegation from the Premier League.

He lost his first five games in charge, and the club had suffered 27 defeats and conceded 81 goals by the end of the top-flight campaign.

“I realised that this season was going to be a massive challenge for us,” Parker said.

“When teams get relegated there are big wounds, and we were in a low spell.

“The biggest challenge was obviously trying to implement a philosophy and install a real identity on the pitch.

“It’s been a rocky road this season because you can’t just have a magic wand to go from a weak mentality to fighting to win the division you are in.

“I see a massive improvement from where we were, and a team that is progressing and resilient.”

Whites have Wembley experience, Bees only play-off woes
Fulham have their 1-0 victory over Aston Villa at Wembley in 2018 to draw on, with captain Tom Cairney and 26-goal striker Aleksandar Mitrovic among nine members of the matchday squad that day who remain at Craven Cottage.

“We have got lads who have experienced it, been there with the pressure and got the job done,” Fulham midfielder Harrison Reed said.

“We can certainly use that to our advantage.”

However, Brentford captain Pontus Jansson thinks the fact the national stadium will be largely empty because of social distancing measures will level the playing field.

“If it was a full Wembley, it would be a little bit of an advantage for them,” the Swedish centre-back said.

“I can’t see any advantage for them, even if they have been there before. It will be a normal corona game.”

Brentford have never won promotion in their eight previous play-off campaigns, losing three finals.

Two of those defeats came at Wembley, with the most recent being the League One play-off final in 2012-13 – but there are no survivors from that team left in the Bees squad.

“I don’t know any results in the past that Brentford have had in the play-offs,” Jansson said.

“We have a lot of new players and none of those played in the play-offs with Brentford before.

“We just focus on this one. This is a game which lives its own life.”

Team news
Fulham striker Mitrovic won the Championship’s golden boot this season, but the Serbia international missed both legs of the semi-final win over Cardiff City through injury.

However, Parker says he has a fully fit squad for the final.

Whether Mitrovic and forward Neeskens Kebano, who was withdrawn in the second leg against the Bluebirds with a hamstring issue, are fit enough to start remains to be seen.

Bees boss Frank has chosen a largely settled side during the run-in, with his biggest decision seeming to be a choice between Emiliano Marcondes and Josh Dasilva over who will start in midfield.

Inside Spurs with Alasdair Gold – Talking Tanguy

Good evening everyone,

Today we’re going to talk about Tanguy Ndombele and settling in at Tottenham Hotspur.

A week rarely goes by without the Frenchman being linked to a new club. This week, it’s Inter Milan with claims that Spurs are in talks with the Serie A outfit over the young midfielder’s departure.

Those inside Tottenham are bewildered by all the speculation, claiming that not only are talks not on the agenda but the club is well aware that the player needs time to adapt to a new country, moving away from his family and an understanding that he’s been beset by injury issues.

There’s a real belief inside the club that Ndombele can become a superstar and that initial teething problems were always anticipated, which is why he was handed a six-year deal with the intention of him being a long-term signing for the club.

It’s easy to forget that the young Frenchman is only 23, having arrived a year ago to a fast and physical league that is very different to Ligue 1. 

He has also had to pick up the language. I was in a group of three journalists who conducted the first interview with Ndombele last July, during the first few days of the pre-season tour in Singapore.

With the new club record signing still uncomfortable with his use of the English language, we roped in Moussa Sissoko to help with the translation.

It worked well – the two enjoy a brotherly relationship which kept things light – and I managed to get the only two words of English Ndombele has uttered all season to the British media.

“Very hard”, he said with a laugh when I asked how he was finding Mauricio Pochettino’s infamous pre-season training sessions.

While he was perfectly amiable with us on a baking hot afternoon in Singapore, Ndombele does not appear to be a fan of interviews or the media.

Unless I’ve missed one, he has not spoken to the English press since that day a year ago and only stopped once or twice for French journalists in the mixed zone in the stadium during Pochettino’s era.

Even interviews with the club’s in-house media channels are rare, one he did midway through the season came again with Sissoko by his side.

That quiet persona, away from the limelight, perhaps adds to the enigma that is Ndombele.

Those within the club believe that, unlike the midfielder, the people around him are quick to go to the media in France whenever the opportunity arises, often when he’s left out of a starting line-up, which results in all of the speculation surrounding his future.

At the end of the day though it comes down to a young player settling in and adapting to a new country.

There’s a belief – we’re all guilty of it – that the bigger the fee, the more likely a new signing should hit the ground running.

Maybe it’s governed by us all playing games like FIFA or Football Manager or perhaps it’s just a by-product of the excitement a club record signing brings.

However, in the real world it just doesn’t work like that and a large number of new signings need varying lengths of times to settle and show their best.

Spurs know that very well. Son Heung-min asked to leave the club at the end of his first season to return to Germany after struggling to get in the team regularly and adapting to the country. It was only a chat with Pochettino that changed his mind.

At Tottenham, the likes of Luka Modric, Hugo Lloris. Erik Lamela, Davinson Sanchez and Sissoko have all been high profile signings given time to adapt, the latter coming with Premier League experience.

That’s because there’s also an adaptation period for new signings who aren’t coming from foreign climes.

Players from abroad have the culture adaptation on top of it, and often have to do it without their family.

Even a Welshman in Gareth Bale took a while to settle at Spurs, holding a record in his first year or so of having never played in a winning team before eventually becoming one of the world’s best.

Ultimately it’s down to that word ‘patience’, one that can be hard to find in football.
It’s not only the fans and the clubs that lose sight of it, but often also the players.

They’re young and they think things won’t change, they won’t get better and they’ll never feel at home but as Son found out, it happens as long as you commit to it.

Pochettino knew it about Ndombele just two months into the season, even if it was something the fans did not want to hear.

“We cannot assess him enough to say he is doing well or not so well,” said the Argentine.

“For me it’s fantastic the things he adds to the team, I am so happy with him like I am so happy with different players.

“Still for me, when you sign a player, despite the amount you pay, with the profile of Tanguy Ndombele or Giovani Lo Celso or Ryan Sessegnon you need minimum one year and a half, or two years.

“Look at what happened with Son or Sissoko, they started to perform in year two, year three. That is why when you are so young, today the market is the market, you cannot judge the player because you paid some kind of amount.

“He played two years in Lyon and moved to England where everything is new, but the quality is there. They need time to show their real quality.”

Tottenham believe they have a potential world class talent in Tanguy Ndombele and that he will come good. Hopefully the young Frenchman realises it as well.

Catch you next week,

Alasdair

Palace v Spurs, Match report

By Steve Sutcliffe

BBC Sport

Jose Mourinho says he intends to get Tottenham back “where we belong” after they qualified for the Europa League with a hard-fought draw at Crystal Palace.

The result saw Spurs leapfrog into sixth place above Wolves, who lost at Chelsea.

“When all the players are available, we showed in this last period where we belong,” Mourinho said.

“I don’t know, maybe in this period, after lockdown, we finished third or fourth in the table. So that’s where we belong.

“I want to have my team, my players, not a medical room full of players. I want a pitch full of players.

“Of course as a squad, the main thing is to keep our very good players and after that improve the squad.

“Are we going to buy 10 players? No. Are we going to buy players for £100m? No. We are going to improve.”

Harry Kane opened the scoring for Spurs, dispatching a low finish into the bottom left corner after collecting Giovani lo Celso’s pass.

However, Jeffrey Schlupp levelled for Palace with a close-range finish after some poor Tottenham marking at a corner.

It was no more than Roy Hodgson’s side deserved, as they ended a run of seven straight defeats.

They matched their London rivals for endeavour and could have snatched all three points, with Scott Dann heading a late effort wide.

Mission accomplished for Spurs

It appeared to be a case of mission accomplished for Mourinho and his staff at the final whistle as they celebrated the prospect of playing in Europe next term.

The result means that Spurs are guaranteed to earn a minimum of around £10m for their involvement in European competition next season.

However, few Tottenham supporters could have imagined such a difficult campaign – or that the Portuguese boss would take charge less than six months on from their appearance in last season’s Champions League final.

When Mourinho succeeded Mauricio Pochettino as manager, the club were languishing in 14th in the table.

“Of course everybody that one day plays Champions League doesn’t want to go back and play Europa League – but it was the only thing possible after such a difficult season for the club,” Mourinho added.

“Arriving 14th and handling things is not bad at all. I am quite happy that next season we play in the Europa League and it’s just a question to motivate ourselves for that competition and try to motivate the fans to support us and do something beautiful.”

While Mourinho has overseen an upturn in results and the number of goals they have scored, he is yet to remedy their problems in defence.

Eric Dier put in an accomplished performance alongside Toby Alderweireld on his return from suspension, but Palace’s equaliser is likely to have infuriated the Spurs boss.

His defenders stood like statues as Dann headed a deep corner back across goal, with Schlupp converting after Ayew had diverted the ball into his path.

Until then, Tottenham had looked capable of extending their lead via the pace and power of Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura, on the break.

Man of the match – Lucas Moura (Tottenham)

Capital joy for Kane – the stats

  • Crystal Palace are unbeaten in their past five final-day Premier League games played at home (W4 D1).
  • Tottenham Hotspur registered just eight clean sheets in their 38 Premier League games in 2019-20, their lowest tally of shutouts in the competition since 2010-11 (also eight).
  • Crystal Palace have become just the eighth team to go through an entire Premier League season without scoring more than twice in a match and are the first side to do so without being relegated.
  • Tottenham have finished the Premier League campaign in the top six for the 11th consecutive season, after managing to do so just twice in their previous 17 seasons in the competition.
  • Only Andy Cole (nine), Les Ferdinand (nine) and Matt Le Tissier (eight) have scored more Premier League goals on the final day than Tottenham striker Harry Kane (seven in six final-day games).
  • Giovani lo Celso’s two Premier League assists for Tottenham have come in his past three appearances in the competition (28 games in total).
  • Tottenham striker Harry Kane netted his 31st goal in Premier League London derbies, with only three players managing more (Thierry Henry got 43, Teddy Sheringham and Frank Lampard each got 32).

Latest email from Alasdair Golding, Football.London

Hi everyone,

Sometimes you just know that a manager wants to say something publicly but they need the chance to do so.

Mauricio Pochettino used to do it all the time. Sometimes you’d end up in a press conference with an answer from the Argentine that barely connected with the question you asked him.

Most managers do it. They come in with something they want to get off their chest and they crowbar it into one of their answers.

To be fair to Jose Mourinho, while it wasn’t what I asked he managed to find the perfect place in his answer to my question for his big reveal that he would be appointing a former Spurs man to his coaching staff. 

He also managed to predict exactly what my follow-up question would be anyway with the answer, while revealing that little something extra.

I’d long been keen to ask him at the end of the season about his relationship with his assistant head coach Joao Sacramento because it’s one that fascinates me.

Sacramento is just 31, studied Mourinho’s methods religiously and is now widely regarded as one of the foremost students of tactical analysis in Europe.

For me, I was intrigued to know how this young coach worked as the right-hand man to one of the world’s most successful, experienced and single-minded managers and what that dynamic is like.

I’d also been told that another member of the coaching staff, Ricardo Formosinho, had informed Mourinho of his intention to leave the club this summer. So that was going to be my follow-up question, asking whether he was looking to reshape his coaching staff for next season.

Mourinho answered it all in one go and then some. 

Not only did he talk about how talented Sacramento is and how he had been working with his young compatriot long before he came to Tottenham, but he also confirmed Formosinho was leaving to become a head coach elsewhere and then that slipped in that news that he would be replaced by someone from Tottenham’s history.

All indications are that Ledley King will be joining Mourinho’s first team coaching staff ahead of next season. 

I’ve been told he was asked by the Portuguese to come in to Hotspur Way before lockdown to do a little work with the defenders.

Bringing him in to work with Mourinho works on every level. The Spurs fans would love to see him involved and the thought of arguably the most talent defender in Tottenham’s history and Mourinho working with the club’s young defenders like Japhet Tanganga, Davinson Sanchez and Malachi Fagan-Walcott is an exciting one.

I’ve been fortunate enough to speak to Ledley on many occasions and I’ve seen the way he’s developed off the pitch. 

After he retired in 2012, as that chronic knee injury just became too difficult to manage, he initially began working part-time in the academy, coaching Spurs’ U18 players.

However, he wasn’t quite ready at that point to go into that in a full-time capacity and instead Spurs made him a club ambassador, flying him around the world to be the face of Tottenham Hotspur and wheeling him out at every event possible.

That’s given me plenty of opportunities to interview him in recent years, whether it’s at a stadium event or in the baking heat of the USA or Asia on the pre-season tours.
When Ledley first retired he was shy and he would probably be the first to admit that he wasn’t one of the world’s greatest public talkers.

The ambassador role, coupled with a bit of early punditry work, has really brought out the confidence in the former Spurs captain in getting out what he wanted to say. 

Even 18 months made such a difference. I spoke to him at the stadium once during the time Sol Campbell first got into management at Macclesfield Town.

Ledley admitted he wasn’t sure if he would go back into coaching himself and didn’t expand too much on his former Spurs team-mate’s career. He didn’t seem too confident in the direction his own life was heading.

Fast forward to a balmy night in Shanghai last summer, where after Ledley had taken part in a coaching session with a group of young Chinese children, he spoke like a man recharged and one who had developed off the pitch.

He said he was looking to get back into coaching and eventually management, and that he wanted to be the best otherwise why bother.

He had a plan to work through his badges and spoke eloquently about the difficulties with racism in the game and that he might face as a new coach. There was a real confidence in himself again, similar to the kind he had as a player.

You only had to watch the 39-year-old hold court in the supporters’ evenings he’s now done probably hundreds off around the world, so see just how comfortable he is now inside his skin as a former footballer ready for what comes next in his career.

He is a modern-day Tottenham legend, he’s respected by players and staff within the club and he could have meant even more to those outside Spurs had it not been for that knee.

Thierry Henry still maintains he was the best defender he ever faced in his career. That incredible tackle on Arjen Robben is still one of the finest moments of defending in a London derby.

The former Tottenham skipper becoming part of Mourinho’s coaching staff would be a great PR move to win over some of the disenchanted Spurs fans.

However, he can become so much more than that. 

Mourinho has a long history of producing managerial disciples at the very top of the game and if one day Ledley King became the latest of those and manager of Tottenham Hotspur it would bring the house down.

Catch you next week after the final game of the season as we look ahead to the summer and next season,

Alasdair

Tottenham confident of signing Pierre-Emile Højbjerg from Southampton

David Hytner, The Guardian

Wed 22 Jul 2020 16.10 BST

Tottenham are confident that they will close a deal for Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, even though Everton have had a bid of £25m accepted for the midfielder.

Højbjerg, who has one year to run on his Southampton contract, is determined to move to Spurs, where José Mourinho wants to play him in front of the back four, and he has made that desire plain.

With the will of the player in their favour, Spurs will look to conclude negotiations with Southampton, having thus far frustrated them with their valuation of Højbjerg. Southampton will use Everton’s £25m offer as the benchmark, although Spurs will try to drive the midfielder’s price down.

Højbjerg was stripped of the Southampton captaincy after making it clear that he would not extend his deal with them and the 24-year-old has lost his regular place in the team since the Premier League’s restart from shutdown.

Southampton want to sign Kyle Walker-Peters on a permanent basis from Tottenham, the 23-year-old right-back having been on loan with them since January.

But in the interests of clarity, they are treating that and the Højbjerg deal as separate entities; the success or failure of one need not determine that of the other.

The making of the next Tottenham legend.

This is the contents of Alasdair Gold’s latest email. To receive regularly you need to subscribe.

Hello everyone,

Today I want to talk about that feeling of following a talented young Tottenham Hotspur footballer through the youth ranks, all the way through to the first team and then on to even bigger things.

For me that player is Oliver Skipp. 

In my previous life at a local newspaper sports reporter, he was a young pupil at one of the schools in my patch.

Now known as Skippy around Spurs, back then at Richard Hale School in Hertford, he was ‘Ollie’ and he was one of the shining lights at a school that has produced a lot of talented youngsters.

At the Hertfordshire Mercury, we were made of his appearances as a young player not only in Spurs’ academy and before that playing for local side Bengeo Tigers, but then for England’s youth sides as he worked his way up the ladder, catching the eye of Tottenham’s then academy head John McDermott and those within the national set-up.

Then when I began at football.london I was presented with the brief to cover not only the Tottenham first team matches, but the U18 and U23 games.

That meant I got to see Skipp in action in the environment he was born for.

It was clear from the off that he was a level above many of those he was playing against and alongside, despite playing well up the age groups.

He was a 16-year-old taking on 18-year-olds and in the development squad matches, he’d be up against some players in their early 20s.

Skipp more than held his own with his technical ability and work rate. 

Perhaps the greatest mark of his standing in the north London club’s academy was that while some Spurs staff would joke about the rarity of Marcus Edwards passing to a younger player stepping up into the U23s, Skipp would always be given the ball. 

The teenager made that step up look easy, operating as either a holding midfielder or a box to box one, occasionally even playing at centre-back to expand his understanding of defensive duties, and he did not look out of place in the EFL Trophy games against experienced Football League players. 

Two moments stood out for me from Skipp’s academy years and neither would have made any headlines, but for me they showed the difference sides of him.

The first was a beautiful flighted chip during a UEFA Youth League match against European opposition, taken from just inside the half which bounced off the crossbar. It did not result in a goal but the delicacy of it and sheer audacity showcased the technical qualities and awareness of the youngster.

It was awareness in another sense that caught my eye another time. 

After a match in the same competition, but away in Dortmund, I was waiting for my taxi to head on to the first team’s Champions League game.

All of the Spurs academy players had got on to the team coach after the game except for Skipp. He had been walking towards it when he noticed one female member of staff bringing out various, big heavy holdalls, seemingly full of kit, from the changing room. 

He turned back and very politely asked if she needed help taking the bags to the coach. She did. It was the simplest of things, but it highlighted a well brought up young man and it gave a little glimpse into the leadership qualities that would continue to develop in him over the ensuing years.

Mauricio Pochettino was well aware of him, McDermott often extolling his virtues when the Argentine would hide from the daily stresses of Spurs on the sofa in the academy head’s office, situated on the other side of Hotspur Way’s main building.

At just 17-years-old, Skipp got the call up from Pochettino to go on the summer tour in 2018 to Los Angeles and the USA and he was instantly taken in by the first team group, Christian Eriksen in particular quickly becoming a fan of his ability and demeanour.

Spurs have always had a crowded midfield so Skipp has had to bide his time and take whatever chances have come his way in the two years since. He’s rarely let the side down whenever he’s started or come on in the Premier League or cup competitions.

My affinity with Skipp was only strengthened when I was invited to sit down with him for his first ever media interview. 

We spoke for almost half an hour, after he’d spent his 19th birthday helping to teach Maths and PE to Year 4 pupils at Ferry Lane Primary School in Tottenham as part of a community initiative.

He spoke about the man who made a mark on him in the academy, his former U18s manager Scott Parker, and you can see some of the former Spurs and Chelsea midfielder’s style in the way he plays.

Most of all, the teenager came across as polite, insightful and growing in confidence as he began to feel a deserving member of the first team. You can find that long interview right here.

Tottenham have always had high hopes for him and it’s no coincidence that Jose Mourinho has already set his sights on Skipp as a key man for the future. 
Like Pochettino, he has had no hesitation into throwing him into important, tight matches, most recently in the north London derby.

The young midfielder signed a new four-year deal on Friday and has told Mourinho that he wants to head out on loan next season to get regular game time in order to return better prepared to claim a spot in the busy centre of the pitch for Spurs.

I asked Mourinho just how good Skipp could become on Friday, not long after the new contract was made public, and he made it clear just how important the teenager could become for Tottenham.

“I’m really happy [he’s signed a new deal]. Everybody in the club is, his team-mates are, I am and Skippy is or not he wouldn’t sign the contract. I think he’s genuinely Tottenham’s future,” said Mourinho.

“He’s one of these players by human quality, by personality, he is one of these kids that I have no doubt he will be an important player for Tottenham. 

“Sometimes coaches are selfish and I told him that. I never told him I want him to go on loan, I always told him I wanted him to stay here, because that’s the selfish perspective of a coach who wants the best possible squad. 

“In his mind he wants to go on loan, six months, the whole season. He feels that he needs that, I also feel that would be good for his evolution, so maybe that is the direction we go. 

“I think he can be more than a player, he can be a future captain here. Hugo, Harry. I see this kid being one day a future captain here by his character, by his personality. I feel really happy that he signed.”

I have to admit I found myself inadvertently smiling as the Portuguese responded to me. 

In this line of work we get to see so many young players develop and work so hard but often fall away and sometimes out of the game completely.

There’s still plenty for Oliver Skipp to do and a long road ahead, but it’s genuinely been a pleasure to see how he’s grown as a person and a player over the years.

If one day he becomes the captain of Tottenham Hotspur then he won’t be the only one grinning from ear to ear.

Catch you next week,

Alasdair

Explained: The ‘terrible’ state of Premier League clubs’ finances

By Matt Slater, The Athletic 7th Apr 2020

Famed investor Warren Buffett once said it was “only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked” and the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic has dragged football’s tide way out beyond the pier, forcing lots of embarrassed bathers to scurry back to their beach huts.

Since the Premier League was suspended in March, the news cycle has been dominated by talk of bail-outs, pay-cuts and potential lawsuits. The professional game has struggled with the greatest financial threat it has faced in peacetime.

Football is far from alone in this regard: construction, retail, travel… any sector that depends on people being able to go out, congregate and spend freely is in a fight for survival.

Getting through this will depend on a combination of luck, nimble management and what state you were in when it started. To paraphrase former British prime minister David Cameron’s favourite criticism of his predecessor, did you fix the roof while the sun was shining?

The Athletic has analysed all the Premier League club accounts filed at Companies House over the last few months and the answer for the majority of them would appear to be there has been very little DIY done ahead of this storm.

“The accounts are awful,” says John Purcell, the co-founder of financial analysis firm Vysyble. “The numbers had fallen off a cliff for some of the clubs long before this crisis.”

While Dr Dan Plumley, a sports finance expert at Sheffield Hallam University, says the financial shock of COVID-19 has “brought to light just how stretched the industry is and how many clubs live from hand to mouth”.

Most clubs published their accounts in April but Crystal Palace and Newcastle United took advantage of an emergency measure that gave businesses three extra months to publish their year-end figures. This article has been updated to reflect the impact the 2018-19 season had on their books.

The league’s total income last season was £4.8 billion, with most clubs reporting rises, albeit mainly small ones, in all three revenue streams: broadcast, commercial and match-day. Unfortunately, as that other great business sage and former Tottenham owner Alan Sugar memorably pointed out, this money goes through clubs like prune juice.

Only Watford reduced their wage bill year-on-year. The league’s overall staff costs topped £3 billion. This means they spent 64 per cent of their income on wages.

But that is the average. Bournemouth, Everton and Leicester all spent more than 80 per cent of their turnover on staff. Exactly half the league spent more than 70 per cent of their income on wages, a level that automatically raises red flags for European football’s governing body UEFA.

According to Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance last May, the wage/turnover ratio was rising across Europe’s “big five” leagues — England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain — with the Premier League’s figure rising from 55 per cent in 2016-17 to 59 per cent 12 months later.

premier league accounts turnover

The wage/turnover figures for three promoted teams, Aston Villa, Norwich City and Sheffield United, are even worse at 175 per cent, 161 per cent and 195 per cent, respectively, but that is par for the course in the Championship, which is a disaster zone for those who like balanced books and tidy profits. Just to underline what those figures mean, Sheffield United spend £1.95p on wages for every £1 that came in.

Travel costs, utility bills, repairs, insurance, paper clips… they all add up and pretty soon they started nibbling into the overdraft.

“Lots of the clubs are in a terrible state,” says Purcell. “I’m not picking on them but I was not surprised to see reports this week that West Ham are looking for extra financing of £30 million. It’s so predictable.”

The use of averages and totals also irons out perhaps the most obvious point to make about the state of the industry before the pandemic struck: the Premier League is not a collection of equals.

The six richest clubs account for nearly £3 billion, or 62 per cent, of that total turnover. Arsenal, who have slid in recent seasons to sixth in the big-six mini-league, earned £367.5 million in 2017-18 — £176.8 million more than West Ham’s best-of-the-rest total of £190.7 million. That deficit is about the same as Bournemouth and Aston Villa brought in between them, as you can see below.

Manchester United, the league’s biggest earner, turns over more than three times as much as West Ham and four times as much as Southampton. Manchester City and Liverpool, second and third in the money list and as competitive off the pitch as they were on the pitch that season, earn four times the amount Bournemouth bring in.

The only way the clubs further down the economic ladder can even hope to compete with the big-earners on the pitch is to spend a higher percentage of their income on salaries and ask their owners to keep topping up the shortfalls. These clubs also tend to be more reliant on the league’s main source of income: broadcast rights.

If there was one economic marker that tells the story of English football’s rise from the ignominies and tragedies of the Bradford City fire and Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985 and Hillsborough in 1989, it would be the incredible amount of money companies around the world have been willing to pay to televise it.

When the Premier League split from the English Football League (EFL) in 1992, the top flight’s domestic rights were worth less than £40 million a season. Nobody even noticed what the international rights were worth.

This season, the clubs will share about £2.5 billion in broadcasting rights between them, with the rest going in parachute and solidarity payments to the EFL, assorted good causes and central costs. These rights deals have been negotiated centrally, usually on a three-year basis, and distributed more evenly than any other big league in Europe. The best clubs still get more than the worst but the margin is tighter than in France, Germany, Italy or Spain, creating the idea the Premier League is more competitive.

The key landmarks are the back-to-back increases of 70 per cent the Premier League managed to persuade domestic rivals BT and Sky Sports to cough up in 2012 and 2015. The two broadcasters declared a truce before the 2018 rights auction, resulting in a slightly reduced return for the league, but nobody minded as the appetite for English football abroad means the international rights are now nearly as valuable as the domestic ones. With a 30 per cent increase from overseas deals, the overall 2019-22 broadcast pot is 8 per cent up on 2016-19.

Before the current crisis, Deloitte estimated that Premier League clubs would earn £5.25 billion this season, £2 billion clear of the totals in the Bundesliga and La Liga. But English clubs spend twice as much on wages as German clubs do and 50 per cent more than Spanish sides.

Kieran Maguire, a lecturer on football finance at the University of Liverpool and the man behind the “Price of Football” blog, sees an industry that did not believe the cheques would ever stop arriving.

“Broadcast income accounts for about 60 per cent of Premier League clubs’ turnover but if you are that reliant on a single income source and don’t have contingency plans, you will always be at risk,” he says.

“Football is a part of the entertainment industry. Like all other businesses in this sector, it will be hit hard by the lockdown. The difference is football has higher fixed costs than most and these are the wages and transfer instalments.

“As of last June, the clubs owed £1.6 billion in instalments and had £700 million coming in. Some of this money is circulating within the division and some will be flowing downwards to the EFL, but there is a £900 million deficit. The concern is that financial problems in one league could spread throughout the industry just like the pandemic.”

The fees clubs pay for players are spread across the length of those players’ contracts in their annual accounts, a process known as amortisation. Maguire points out that if you take amortisation and staff costs together, they amount to 86 per cent of Premier League turnover.

“That does not leave much over for anything else and the number will be much worse for the Championship, where this crisis will cause havoc,” he adds.

A good example of how these fixed costs can cause an explosion of red ink at even the richest of clubs can be seen in Chelsea’s accounts for 2018-19. A high wage bill, a net transfer spend and a season outside the Champions League left them with a £101.8 million pre-tax loss. They can point, at least, to the Europa League trophy in their cabinet and the return of Champions League cash to their accounts this season. Everton, on the other hand, only have an eighth-place finish in the league to show for their record £107 million loss, as you can see below.

And for proof of Maguire’s point about the reliance on broadcast money, look no further than the response of every major league and governing body to the suspension of play: all possible avenues for completing the season must be explored to honour the various contracts associated to that season.

The Premier League has already spelt this out to its clubs, saying that broadcast partners would demand £762 million back if they were unable to show any Premier League football for the rest of the season. With football now set to resume on June 17, that doomsday scenario looks unlikely. However, at a Premier League meeting at the end of May, top-flight sides were informed they will lose a minimum of £330 million to broadcasters, even if the season was completed. The shock of that figure was offset slightly once Sky agreed that £170 million would not need to be paid until the 2021-22 season.

premier league tv revenue

The good news for the Premier League, however, is the final year of a three-year broadcast cycle usually results in losses, and most clubs return to profit when the cycle starts again. Crystal Palace also turned a £36 million loss in 2017-18 into a £5 million profit last time around.

“We’ve been tracking the data since 2009 and you can see these three-year cycles in the accounts are tied to the new TV deals,” says Purcell. “So, in 2014 and 2017, there are these walls of money that arrive in year one but by year three, most of them are losing lots of money again.”

The bad news is that there has been a deterioration over time.

“This set of accounts is a real shocker,” explains Purcell. “The tail-off over the previous two cycles wasn’t as bad as this time.”

Unlike most other analysts, Purcell’s firm uses a measure called economic profit, which is all the usual things analysts measure plus the cost of equity or, in other words, the cost of investing in this particular business as opposed to any other.

“We think it is a better reflection of how much money the owners are putting into these clubs every year to keep them afloat,” he says. “If we look at the previous three-year cycle, from 2013-14 to 2015-16, there was a league-wide deficit of £380 million. Before Palace and Newcastle had submitted their accounts, the deficit from 2016-17 to 2018-19 was £624 million. We’d never seen anything like that before.

“Since 2009, we believe the Premier League has made an economic loss of £2.74 billion.”

Sheffield Hallam’s Plumley also ties the league’s cost-control issues to the revolving door of bumper broadcast deals and the players’ demands for their fair share of that booty.

“Costs have been the issue for football for more than 20 years: you can trace it right back to the start of the Premier League era,” he says. “Whenever a new broadcast deal has been announced, most of the clubs have immediately pushed the envelope in terms of what they can afford.”

Ramon Vega enjoyed a 13-year career as a professional footballer in his native Switzerland, Italy, England, Scotland and France, playing for sides such as Celtic, Spurs and Watford, before retiring in 2003 and becoming an asset manager and sports business consultant.

“Ten years ago, many of the Premier League clubs were bankrupt from a balance sheet point of view but then they got those two big TV deals in a row and it lifted them all out of the red,” says Vega.

“Those huge increases saved them. OK, nearly all of that money has gone to the players but, as an ex-player myself, I don’t blame them at all. If you’re offered it, you take it. You’d do it, too, that’s human nature. But as a businessman, I’d worry about the wage to turnover ratio. Were the clubs prepared for this crisis? No. Was any other industry? No.

“The strange thing is most of these guys are very good businessmen away from football but very few of them run their clubs like their other businesses. I think Mike Ashley at Newcastle is the exception but even he does haven’t lots of money in reserve.”

Purcell agrees. “Who signs these contracts on behalf of the clubs? It’s not the players or their agents. It’s the owners,” he says.

“You’ll never find a bricklayer who refuses a wage because it’s morally reprehensible. This isn’t the players’ fault. Good luck to them. This about the ambitions and agendas of the owners.

“Of course, nobody predicted this particular crisis but good businesses can and do predict a crisis. Football should have been able to model some kind of shock to the system that would have an impact on broadcast income because they’re all on such a fine tightrope. Any shock would see some of them fall off that tightrope.”

Dr Dan Parnell is a senior lecturer in sports business at the University of Liverpool’s management school and the chief executive of the Association of Sporting Directors. For him, football’s cost-control problems could be sorted out at a stroke if the big calls were left to the experts.

“There are lots of good, well-intentioned people in the game who desperately want to make good decisions for their clubs but all too often those people are either not making the final decisions or those intentions go out of the window when the owners get involved,” Parnell explains.

“You can see it in the Sunderland ‘Til I Die documentary (on Netflix), where you have the manager and head of recruitment saying, ‘don’t pay any more than this for that player’ but then go ahead and do it anyway. It’s like they’re playing with a new toy.

“This is where a really good sporting director can help. Look at Stuart Webber at Norwich. OK, it looks like they’re going down but nobody can say they are not in better shape as a club than when he started.

“He’s overseen the new training ground, he’s changed the way they recruit and develop players and he’s got them on a secure footing financially. Any player he will have signed this season will have been signed with the thought that they might go down and his contract will have to work in the Championship. It’s a more honest and sensible approach than lots of other clubs.”

Maguire, Parnell, Plumley and Purcell all told The Athletic they hope the Premier League will learn something from the current crisis, either bringing in a salary cap, increasing the amount it shares with the EFL or simply persuading the owners to let their staff get on with it.

But Vega is not so sure this will be the “enormous wake-up call” the industry needs. “I don’t think football people ever learn,” he says. “The game is so geared up around today. Nobody thinks about tomorrow.

“That’s why they’re panicking now. You can see that they’re not thinking straight with these decisions to furlough non-playing staff. How much money is that really saving them? But with no Champions League income, no match-day income, maybe they have to repay some of the broadcast money… they’re thinking, ‘Shit, what do I do?’”

Not everyone is quite so sure football has arrived at this point in such terrible shape. Not compared to any business sector, anyway.

Dr Stefan Szymanski teaches sports management at the University of Michigan and is the author of the best-seller Soccernomics.

In an exchange with The Athletic, he said: “The problem is that all this analysis is in a vacuum. If you’re going to say that everything that ever goes wrong is due to incompetence without considering any other benchmarks or comparators, then there’s no defence.

“The Premier League is not perfect. But why are they held to a standard of perfection? Who else are we holding to that standard? Is there any business not in a state of panic right now? What other sport is faring better in this crisis than the Premier League?

“This is one of the most successful organisations in the world, measured by year-on-year growth over 30 years. They deliver an outstanding product for consumers. Who cares if they can’t control their costs?”

Szymanski is right. The Premier League has been giving people around the world what they want for nearly 30 years. But now, for reasons beyond its control, it cannot. And because it has perhaps been a little too generous with its players (and their representatives), it is not in as robust a position as a business of its stature should be.

You do not need to be an accountant to know that Bournemouth, who get 88 per cent of their revenue from broadcasters and spend almost all of that on wages, are in a tough spot. Even frugal Burnley, with their balanced books, lean very heavily on the league’s biggest backers. Getting football back on fans’ screens is of paramount importance to them.

But nobody is immune. Manchester City, perhaps, with the almost limitless wealth of Abu Dhabi behind them, will emerge relatively unscathed and Manchester United’s many mattress and noodles partners do not look so stupid now everyone is looking for other sources of income. But they, and the other big clubs, need the exposure the Premier League and Champions League give them to make their numbers add up.

There is a link to the article which has some lovely graphs for your delectation if you’re interested

Tottenham legend Les Allen in 1961 Double talk

Found this article in April’s edition of Ham & High. The venerable Ronwol kindly provided the accompanying picture above from his recent travels.

Les Allen spoke to Lee Power about the historic Double winning season for an article which first featured in ‘Marching On’ – a magazine to celebrate the club’s move from White Hart Lane to their new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Here is that piece once more:

Les Allen scored arguably the greatest goal in Tottenham’s history but could hardly be more modest or humble about it.

Allen netted the winner in a 2-1 success against Sheffield Wednesday at White Hart Lane on April 17, 1961 to clinch the league title and first half of the famous ‘Double’.

Yet, given the chance to hark back to that glorious, glorious night, the Dagenham-born 81-year-old said: “It was nice to get that under our belts and then enjoy the last few games of the season.

“I didn’t have any favourite goals really. It didn’t sink in until later on. We were pretty successful and got used to it.

“But then it was a case of ‘Bloody hell, we’ve won it!”

Allen was in his first full season at the club, having signed for Bill Nicholson from Chelsea – who took Johnny Brooks in a swap deal – in December 1959 at the age of 21.

But he had made an instant impact, scoring twice on his debut against Newcastle and then give times in an eye-boggling 13-2 FA Cup win over Crewe Alexandra.

He said: “When leaving school I was tempted to be a professional and was given a trial by West Ham but nothing came of it. I wasn’t quite up to the standard they said.

“I went to get an apprenticeship as a model maker and started playing for Briggs Sports. We lost to Bishop Auckland in the semi-final of the Amateur Cup, who were a very good team, but it was quite an achievement.”

That was in 1954 and the semi-final was played at Newcastle’s St James’ Prk in front of 54,000.

Chelsea were also watching the young Allen and he signed for them at 17.

“My dad was in charge. West Ham came back in and dad told them what to do!” added the boyhood Arsenal fan.

“I was doing a five-year apprenticeship, so was only part-time, training in the evenings and played weekends when I could.

“I went full-time after finishing my apprenticeship and played some first-team games and was decent against Spurs and Bill Nic followed me up after that.

“I’d only been a full-time pro for three months at Chelsea and Ted Drake called me in and said ‘I’ve had a call from Tottenham, would you be interested?’. I said ‘of course I would’. I was pleased it was an upgrade.”

Allen hit the ground running with his debut brace and nap hand against Crewe – “I held the record until George Best broke it!” he says – but revealed it wasn’t until the following summer when he began to feel truly settled in his new surroundings.

“It took quite a while, most of that first (half) season. But the pre-season after that, we got together as a team and took off from there,” he said.

“I didn’t realise how good a team we had really. It was a terrific side. Bill Nic, being a very good manager as he was, had a lot of good players in reserve and if you were not doing the business, he’d have us out and another one in.

“I played 60-odd games that year and did quite well with scoring.”

Spurs raced out of the blocks in the autumn of 1960, winning their first 11 matches and, after being held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester City, adding four more successive wins.

But nobody was talking about a potential title bid, apparently.

“We didn’t get carried away. We just kept digging and getting results,” said Allen.

“It was such a good side and the one-touch football was exceptional. We’d do it in training and it would come out in matches.

“We’d score goals, going from one end of the pitch to the other, without the other team getting a touch.”

Allen finished with 27 goals in all copmetitions, striking up a great partnership with Bobby Smith as Spurs safely navigated their way through the FA Cup, beating Sunderland 5-0 in a quarter-final replay after a 1-1 draw at Roker Park, then Burnley 3-0 in the semi-finals to book a final date with Leicester.

But not many were thinking of becoming the first side since Aston Villa in 1897 to complete a Double.

“Bobby Smith would unsettle a few. He was a very good player, a strong guy who didn’t stand any nonsence,” added Allen.

“Like all cup games you can get knocked out, but we went through quite easy. But it never got to that stage. If I’d known, I’d have put a few bob on it!”

With their league winner’s medals already secured, the grand day out at Wembley Stadium was almost one game too many for the champions.

But goals in the final quarter of the match from Smith and Terry Dyson secured a 2-0 win and a place in Tottenham folklore forever.

“The final was one of the only games we never played well in,” said Allen.

“It wasn’t a great game to watch we were told, compared to how we’d played. But they can’t take that away.

“It was a big thing and I was fortunate to play there again with QPR and win the League Cup.”

All great teams need great managers and the 1960-61 Tottenham vintage certainly had one in the legendary Nicholson.

A league champion in 1951, he would enjoy a 36-year association with the Lilywhites, winning eight trophies in 16 years as manager, and this was his finest hour.

“He was more advanced in management than others,” said Allen.

“Training was always interesting and different. Others tried to follow him in the following years. He varied it a lot which was nice.

“They were the best bunch of lads for joking. One or two of them smoked and we’d take the mick out of them. It was 100 per cent a group. We were a team with good players.

“He’d tell you what he thought, always picking you up on what you didn’t do and what you did do.

“He was hard at times and kept you on your toes, but he did well. I think the night we won the league was the only time he really enjoyed himself.

“I couldn’t have been in a better team and the results proved it. Bill Nic, when I left to join QPR, we played Spurs at home and he was chatting to me after the game and said ‘I only made one mistake with you and that was I got rid of you two years too early!”

Allen, who saw son Clive and nephew Paul go on to represent the club in their own distinguished ways, was invited back to say goodbye to the old ground, along with many other former greats and legends, and is excited by what the club’s new home might hold in store.

“I managed to get there and had a good day. There’s only a few of us left unfortunately,” he said, referring to the fact only seven of the 17 players useds in the Double season survive to this day.

“I went to see the new stadium when it was half up. It’s quite outstanwding and will be great for them in the future.”

Les Allen certainly played a great part in Tottenham’s past.

How much longer will Harry Kane tolerate a career without trophies?

Barry Glendenning, The Guardian

A penny for the thoughts of Harry Kane as he witnessed scenes of jubilation unfold outside Anfield, perhaps pondering the notion that, seven seasons into his career as a senior professional with Tottenham, the team he represents has yet to win even one of domestic football’s far less coveted baubles.

The often-ridiculed phrase “This Means More” was coined by Liverpool long before it applied to an inevitable increase in local Covid-19 cases caused by socially irresponsible public celebrations. The unbridled delight of fans who have seen their team win the Champions League, Premier League and Club World Cup in little over a year is unlikely to have been lost on a player who, for all the individual plaudits he has earned, remains resolutely a footballing bridesmaid rather than bride in terms of major honours won. Playing for Tottenham obviously matters a great deal to Kane, but at 26 he has reached a point in his career where lining up for a team more likely to win silverware would surely mean more.

How much would it mean to him to see fans in the colours of a team for whom he plays celebrate a title win in such a fashion? To be part of a squad of garlanded footballers who have hoisted more trophies skywards at home and abroad in the past 13 months than any in Tottenham shirts have lifted in the past 34 years? To ply his trade under the supervision and instruction of a charming, almost universally popular manager whose most successful years look to be ahead of, not behind, him? To win things? He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t wonder.

Despite having 137 top-flight goals to his name – 64 more than Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah – Kane looks no closer to winning a Premier League title or Champions League title than he did during his days on loan at Leyton Orient. His CV is punctuated with prestigious individual gongs, but the team successes he craves remain notable by their glaring absence. Considering most teams at Europe’s top table would be glad to have him and the goals he brings, he could be excused for weighing up his options.

“I’ll always love Spurs, but it’s one of them things,” he said when quizzed about his future plans by Jamie Redknapp in March. “I’ve always said if I don’t feel like we’re progressing as a team or going in the right direction, I’m not someone to stay there just for the sake of it.”

In common with many sit-downs footballers conduct with fellow professionals in whose company they tend to feel less wary, Kane’s comments were delivered with raw honesty and highlighted the naked ambition that burns beneath his largely equable exterior.

At the time of his chat with Redknapp, Kane was recuperating from injury and Tottenham’s most recent result had been a pre-lockdown Champions League thrashing at the hands of RB Leipzig. On José Mourinho’s relatively brief watch they have won 12, lost 10 and drawn six of their matches, during which time the manager also appears to have alienated the club’s record signing, Tanguy Ndombele. Even the Tories at their most delusional and duplicitous would struggle to spin such outcomes as reasons to be particularly cheerful.

It was unsurprising, when recently dismissing the notion Kane may struggle to maintain his proficiency in front of goal under a tactical style many consider to be moribund, Mourinho elected to discuss his past achievements rather than future plans. Unprompted, he listed five big-name strikers and how they had thrived in collaboration with him, deftly sidestepping the specific recent criticism of his current team’s style of play by Paul Merson. A pundit whose fondness for a laugh and occasional lack of articulacy belies a keen tactical mind, the former Arsenal midfielder had suggested that perhaps getting Toby Alderweireld or Davinson Sánchez to lump it long and hope for the best is perhaps not the best way to maximise Kane’s particular skill set.

“No one with any understanding of the art of centre-forward play would doubt the ability of Harry Kane,” wrote Gary Lineker on social media last week, adding his two cents to a handwringing tweet from the popular American podcasters Men In Blazers that stated “few human beings have been written off, discounted, derided more times” than the Spurs striker. It was quite the big call from citizens of a country whose president has been written off, discounted and derided even more often than the many folk he habitually writes off, discounts and derides on an almost hourly basis.

Meanwhile, back in reality, most were just pleased to see Kane lying exhausted on the turf, arms spread wide and his torso visibly heaving as he hungrily gulped down the evening air in celebration following his goal in Tottenham’s home victory over West Ham.

In much the same way that few people whose opinions matter think Liverpool’s latest title should be accompanied by an asterisk, those who have repeatedly traduced the striker and his ability seem very few and far between. Fitness permitting, he will continue to score goals and lots of them, even if the matter of who for remains far from certain.

Last week, Mourinho insisted the striker is not for sale and dismissed as ridiculous the notion that he, the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, and the club’s owner, Joe Lewis, will have a job on their hands to convince their most prized asset not to agitate for a move, despite the four years remaining on his contract. “The club doesn’t need to do anything,” Mourinho said. “He doesn’t want anything different from what Mr Levy wants, Mr Lewis wants and I want. He doesn’t want anything different than us.”

Of that there can be little doubt, even if Kane could be forgiven for deciding those needs will be more readily met at a club with trophy-winning pedigree to match his ambition.

Tottenham offer new contract to Mauricio Pochettino’s son Maurizio

By Dan Kilpatrick, Evening Standard

Tottenham have offered a new contract to Mauricio Pochettino’s son, Maurizio.

The 19-year-old joined the club’s academy in summer 2017 when his dad was the manager and his current contract is up on June 30.

Despite his dad’s dismissal in November, Tottenham’s list of retained players for 2019-20 revealed they have offered Pochettino Jnr. a new deal.

The youngster is yet to make a first team appearance for the club and has not always been a regular for the U-23s.

Pochettino’s other son, Sebastiano, worked as a first-team conditioning coach at Spurs but left the club when his dad was sacked and replaced by Jose Mourinho.

Shortly after succeeding the Argentine, Mourinho revealed he had sent a message to Pochettino through Maurizio.

“I spoke with his son, who is a player in our youth categories, and I think through his boy he can understand my feelings too,” the Portuguese said.

Ndombele and Jose Mourinho, Kane’s struggles and Eric Dier’s future

By Alasdair Gold, Football.London

Here are five talking points from Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United as they returned to Premier League football

Mourinho’s tactics and reasoning

The logic was there in what Jose Mourinho said after the draw against Manchester United about his tactical set-up but it didn’t make what had occurred over the 90 minutes any easier on the eye.

The Portuguese’s style is the antithesis of his predecessor at Tottenham.

Mauricio Pochettino would always say it was about his team’s strengths and their philosophy rather than the opposition’s weaknesses.

Mourinho seems to believe the opposite and while that can result in frustrating football for the fans, there’s no denying it has brought him trophies galore over the past 20 years.

“I think we gave them what they’re not very good at, which was to give them the opportunity to have the ball and play in an organised attack,” said Mourinho about United after the draw.

“I think they’re much more dangerous in counter attack situations, they have fast people in attack and they can be really dangerous, but we managed to control that in an amazing way.”

“In the end, when Rashford had a long ball in the space and in this kind of action, we controlled him very very well. We wanted to be dangerous in counter attack but we knew it would be difficult for 90 minutes. The Lucas injury and Dele suspension took from us that power.”

Playing counter-attacking football at home pretty much admits that you’re not able to beat your visitors in a straight fight.

It wasn’t pretty and it fed into the narrative of negative, ‘anti-football’ that follows Mourinho.

The Spurs boss made a big deal about his inability to use attacking players from the bench in those final 20 minutes to replace those who hadn’t played in five or six months due to injury.

However, he did not have to put all of his attacking players on the pitch to start the game. He could have given himself options later in the match to negate the loss of Lucas Moura and Dele Alli.

It was widely predicted among those at the game that having taken a swipe at the five substitute rule and claiming it was something pushed through by the ‘powerful clubs’ with their bountiful bench options, Mourinho would not use his five subs as a point of principle.

So it proved to be although nobody expected him to only introduce two players with fresh legs.

His gripes pre-lockdown were fair. He had lost so many key attacking players due to to injury that his options and tactics were severely limited.

This is not then. The Spurs head coach had more than enough attacking midfielders to work out a game plan that lasted the full 90 minutes, not just the 70 he was pleased with before players tired.

It also would not have done much for the confidence of Ryan Sessegnon, who Mourinho claimed last season is not ready to be a left-back yet so surely is still considered to be a talented and fast winger.

“I feel with all the options, we’re a strong team, like we showed today in special circumstances in a game of five changes,” he said.

“The five changes of course was a request by the powerful squads, a request made by a top team with top options on the bench and was followed by some teams in the same circumstances. It’s very, very importance at this moment for teams.

“I think against West Ham in the next match if everything goes well, I expect to have two attacking players on the bench that can give me the opportunity to change the intensity when the intensity goes down.”

This was not a time to prove a point though. It was a time to take all three points and while a draw is not a disaster, it felt like a defeat.

The latest tale of Tanguy Ndombele and Jose Mourinho

Much of that substitution decision centres around Tanguy Ndombele.

Mourinho has made big noises about being pleased with the Frenchman’s application in recent months and his desire to work hard to improve and even breached government guidelines to visit him during lockdown.

His reward for his improvement? Not even getting on the pitch on Friday evening.

One of Spurs’ biggest problems on the night was that they struggled to keep possession and there was little space for the attacking players because nobody was driving through United’s lines. The one time that did happen, it resulted in the goal for Steven Bergwijn.

If only there was a player who could have maintained possession of the ball, dribbled and dragged United players out of position and played through balls to those attacking players who were starved of service. Oh, hello Tanguy.

The rushed nature of the virtual post-match press conference, with almost 40 reporters involved – many not at the match – and those participating given just one question, meant the Ndombele topic went unanswered and will likely get an airing instead ahead of the West Ham match.

Don’t be surprised if noises suddenly emerge in France again about the midfielder being unhappy at his lack of game time if he doesn’t start against the Hammers.

Those around the 23-year-old are very quick to voice their/his displeasure to the media back home but that would only result in Mourinho kicking his heels in further.

Ndombele looked to be playing in a more advanced role in the in-house friendly two weeks ago, a move that led to a fine goal from the young France international.

Starting Ndombele against United in such a role would have allowed Mourinho to have one of his attacking options on the bench to use later and probably given Spurs more of the ball, even if that went against his thinking of letting United force the play.

Erik Lamela worked hard and was a pest throughout to United, much of Tottenham’s better play coming through him in the first half, but his downfall came when he had to make decisions in the final third and he lost the ball on a couple of key occasions.

The other option would have been to bring on Ndombele later in the game to add fresh legs and an outlet to retain possession as United grew stronger with their multiple changes.

Spurs found themselves under pressure in those final 20 minutes and Ndombele and Lo Celso in tandem, with someone sitting behind them, would have ensured the home side held more of the ball and could have potentially added to their lead.

The idea of giving nine players 90 minutes of football should serve them well going forward but you would imagine Mourinho will make changes for the West Ham game as it comes so soon after United following months without competitive games.

If Ndombele gets a chance he’s going to have to take it. It’s worth remembering that Lo Celso had to convince Mourinho of his place in the team and the young Frenchman is going to have to do the same.

Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez – a partnership that almost worked

One of the successes for Mourinho on the night – that penalty incident aside – was the pairing of Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez.

That spot kick decision – albeit a soft one and one Mourinho felt should have also been ruled out by VAR – was the only blot on what was an otherwise faultless performance from Dier.

Spurs have struggled with that left-sided centre-back role with the struggles of Jan Vertonghen this season.

Neither Toby Alderweireld nor Sanchez look comfortable in the role, but Dier, with his versatility, has slotted well into the position in Tottenham’s last few fixtures.

Yes, he was beaten very easily by Paul Pogba in the build-up to the penalty and as soon as he placed his hands on the Frenchman you knew what would happen next, but Dier had been imperious until then.

He’s committed his future to playing at the back now and with Vertonghen’s future unclear, it looks like he could become the first choice in the role and in the near empty stadium you could hear his instructions and leadership clearly from the back.

His inch-perfect tackle to deny Anthony Martial in Spurs’ box in the second half was right out of the top drawer. The Frenchman was mostly nullified during the encounter.

Sanchez started the game nervously, an early misguided header setting up Rashford for a chance and then deflecting a cross towards his own goal, with Hugo Lloris bailing him out on both occasions.

However, the Colombian grew into the game and his pace was what Mourinho had required to combat United’s attack and that was proved perfectly when he sprinted back to stop Rashford late on superbly.

“Eric was perfect,” said Mourinho after the game. “I think he had a very strong performance and he was imposing his leadership, physicality, he won absolutely every ball in the air, and won absolutely ever duel.

“It was a difficult match for Martial, we know he’s a very good player.

“I think Davinson for the 90 minutes made one technical mistake, not tactical mistake, which handed them the only chance they had in the first half with Rashford’s shot.

“I’m really happy with them, but really happy with Toby and Jan. So at the moment we have four central defenders and no problems.”

This might just be a partnership we see more of over the weeks ahead as Dier and Alderweireld together would be exposed by faster attacks and it will be interesting to see what that means for the Belgian, who only recently signed a new deal.

Kane, Bergwijn and the returning quartet

There were differing fortunes for the four players who returned from injury for their first match in a long time.

It was perhaps surprising that Mourinho chose to use all four of them – three returning after surgery – particularly when you heard his belief that Spurs tired in the final 20 minutes, but you could also see why he chose to get them back in the team.

The irony is that the one man in the quartet who shone brightest – Steven Bergwijn – might not have started the game had Lucas not picked up a knock in training.

“Imagine Bergwijn on the bench and Lucas playing and coming out minute 60 to 65 and Bergwijn coming for the last period, I can imagine the impact that we could have,” Mourinho said after the final whistle.

“So a bit of frustration but at the same time really happy with the players.

“Really happy to see people like Harry, Sonny, Moussa four months without playing, Harry six months without playing, and then giving us 90 minutes, I think from the boys I can only be really happy with them.”

Bergwijn is still adapting to the Premier League and his input comes in bursts but when he does hit his rhythm he’s something to behold.

Spurs have a real gem on their hands and the more he adapts to what Mourinho and England game demands of him the better he will become.

It’s telling that in the drinks break before his goal, the Tottenham boss was giving the Dutchman a detailed set of instructions and moments later he drove through the centre, left Harry Maguire in the wind and fired a shot powerfully home off David De Gea.

The more he takes instructions on the more he will contribute and at just 22, he’s got so much more to give and Lucas will have a real battle on his hands.

Bergwijn occupying defences on one side will create space for Son Heung-min on the other side – as shown when the Dutchman set up his South Korean team-mate for a great headed chance that brought the best out of De Gea.

However, Son needs to get fitter. Despite that military training back home while others were in lockdown, he still tired among others in the second half, not least his poor set pieces.

He will get stronger though and the thought of the Kane, Son and Bergwijn trident is mouthwatering going forward.

Harry Kane looked like a player who hadn’t played a competitive match for six and a half months, his hamstring injury coming on New Year’s Day at Southampton.

He barely touched the ball, his 36 touches of the ball less than any other player on the pitch and he never touched it in the opposition box in the whole game. He did more in his own box with defensive headers.

When he did get the ball he struggled, just 60 per cent passing accuracy, and of course the service into him was not great either.

Being used as a Drogba-like battering ram to compete for long kicks from Lloris does not suit Kane.

He’s better than that, but we also know the striker needs time to warm up after returning. It can’t be a coincidence that for so long he failed to score in August each season until finally breaking that hoodoo and he usually takes a while after an injury to find his sharpness again, but he will.

This was another example of Spurs not having an alternative to him to take Kane out of the firing line when he’s having a tough time.

The final member of the quartet, Moussa Sissoko, brought his usual drive to the party with some trademark interceptions but you could tell he also has plenty of work to do and getting 90 minutes in his legs will help him enormously.

What comes next

While it felt like a defeat, the draw did prevent United from pulling away in that fifth place spot.

There is a growing belief among many that Manchester City’s appeal will not end in their Champions League ban for next season being rescinded.

Fourth place could be out of reach if Chelsea win at Aston Villa this weekend as nine points between the Blues and Spurs is likely to be too much to bridge.

However, the top five race is going to be hotly-contested. There are so many teams involved, with United, Sheffield United, Wolves, Spurs and potentially even Arsenal, Burnley and Crystal Palace able to catch Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men if they were to go on a run.

First up for Spurs to get back to winning ways and clamber up the table is the visit of West Ham.

For once, the north London side will have a fixture advantage in that the Hammers play a day later with the visit of Wolves on Saturday evening.

Spurs will of course miss out on having their fans behind them for a derby but it’s worth pointing out – and the Hammers’ fans no doubt will – that West Ham were the first visiting team to win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, even with 60,043 fans in attendance on the day.

This game will simply come down to tactics and after making a big deal about how this will be a different encounter to the one against United, you would expect Mourinho to make his team a stronger force with their offensive football.