Daniel Levy has proven himself to be a shrewd and often ruthless operator during his 10 years in charge of Tottenham Hotspur. The bespectacled Cambridge graduate has overseen Spurs’ development from perennial mid-table under achievers to contenders for the Champions League places and conquerors of Milan and Inter.
Levy expressed on Saturday in entirely equivocal terms, Tottenham’s apparently immovable stance on the sale of Luka Modric. Following the Croatian’s statement outlining his desire to move to Chelsea, many thought it a foregone conclusion that the midfield maestro would depart White Hart Lane in the very near future; the pre-eminent dominance of player power to win through yet again no doubt.
It was in this context that Levy released his categorical statement on the future of Modric in particular and Spurs’ best players in general; the statement is reproduced below.
“I wish to make it absolutely clear, as I have said previously, that none of our key players will be sold this summer. We are building a team for the future to consistently play at the highest level and retaining quality players is crucial to that.
“In respect of Luka Modric, we are not prepared to sell, at any price, to Chelsea Football Club or any other club.
“We made our stance on this issue abundantly clear in writing to Chelsea. They chose to ignore it and then subsequently made the offer public.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, let me reiterate that we shall not enter into any negotiations whatsoever, with any Club, regarding Luka.
“We now consider this matter closed.”
This short statement has put Levy in a potentially difficult position. He now cannot sell Modric without arousing legitimate outrage amongst the Tottenham support and without irrevocably damaging his and the club’s reputation. The sale of the central midfielder would also effectively end Tottenham’s pretensions of establishing themselves as genuine title contenders.
Many fans respect the ‘no dice’ attitude of Daniel Levy. He has taken a stand against the prevailing practice of players moving clubs when they want, on their terms. Levy has taken the view that Spurs must retain the services of their best players to have any hope of challenging at the top of the table and thanks to his prudence in tying Modric and Bale to long-term contracts, he is in a position to say, ‘we will not sell’ to the Premier League’s big boys.
Chelsea, for their part, were cute in their approach to a potential transfer – the risible offer of £22m (just £6m more than Spurs paid Dinamo Zagreb for the Croatian in 2008) was clearly not a serious transfer offer. Rather, its aim, which was successfully met, was to unsettle the Coratian and to plant in his mind the seed of possibility – ‘we want you, look what you could be winning’. Cue player requesting a move to Stamford Bridge. The Blues presumably expected Levy then to crumble and accept an improved bid, probably in the region of £30m-35m; indeed, Chelsea were probably as surprised as most at the unambiguous nature of the statement released by Daniel Levy on Saturday.
Assuming that Levy sticks to his guns over the sale of Modric, he will be left with a tricky situation. When a player says, in no uncertain terms, that he wants to move on, his wish, in modern football, is normally granted. Clubs tend to take the view that they should not force a player to remain as he would lose motivation and negatively affect team morale, and the club itself would lose out on a transfer fee.
Levy has effectively told Modric he will definitely be staying at White Hart Lane for the foreseeable future; how then will the mild-mannered, apparently genial midfielder react? It is hard to imagine a repeat of the sulking and skulking that characterised Dimitar Berbatov’s acrimonious departure reoccurring with Modric, who by all accounts has an excellent relationship with Harry Redknapp, his manager.
The best way to assuage Modric’s concerns over Spurs lack of title-winning credentials would be for Levy to demonstrate that he is willing to match the club’s lofty ambitions with an aggressive transfer policy. The chairman’s belligerence in retaining Modric needs to be equally expressed in the clubs acquisitions this transfer window. Harry Redknapp never tires of suggesting that Tottenham are two or three “top, top” players away from creating a credible team ready to contend for the title; after insisting on the retention of Modric, Levy must now put his money were his mouth is.
The summer is still young and this is but one of the many sagas that will reach conclusion before the transfer window shuts in August. However, this particular story is more engaging than most as the futures of not just Luka Modric, but Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, hinge on what happens in the next two months.