Spotting a Good Value, Under-the-Radar Signing for Tottenham Hotspur

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Spotting a Good Value, Under-the-Radar Signing for Tottenham Hotspur
Brian Kersey/Getty Images
Mauricio Pochettino's efforts to improve his squad arguably have higher, more expensive stakes than at any previous time in Tottenham Hotspur's history.

Times are changing in football's transfer market. Tottenham Hotspur are part of an inexorable increase in transfer fees which—while accounting for some influence from natural inflation—have blown old notions of good value out of the water.

It is a trend that has been intertwined with Tottenham's move away from the under-the-radar signings that were a more prominent part of their player recruitment in years past. As the north London club's ambition has grown with improved league showings (and been aided by the television-deal-inspired richness of the Premier League), they have accordingly joined Europe's elite at the forefront of football's big-money dealings.

The former is certainly evident in the prices being cited for the latest players to reportedly be interesting Spurs.

Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin are being linked with a move to Spurs at a cost of a combined £35 million. The Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel is among those reporting Southampton value Schneiderlin alone at £27 million.

First mentioned in the press as a Spurs target earlier in July (the Daily Express' Ben Jefferson was leading the way then), the France international is a player for whom it is easy to see the appeal to new boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Christopher Lee/Getty Images
If media reports are to be believed, Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez could be close to transfers to Tottenham.

Schneiderlin is a good passer of the ball, skilful and is able to handle himself in midfield. As this writer also noted in a piece on him earlier this month, "if Pochettino believes he is more suited to the way he wants his team to play than anyone else, a bid for him has its merits."

Yet Schneiderlin could cost Spurs £19 million more than they got selling Jake Livermore to Hull City earlier this summer, the £8 million transfer fee reported by BBC Sport. As of the end of last season, Livermore had appeared in two more Premier League games (71 to 69) than a man possibly being preferred to him at Spurs.

Both have taken different career paths, of course. Schneiderlin has played in the World Cup and been a first-teamer at Southampton since 2008-09. At the same age of 24, much of Livermore's experience has come on loan, including 36 of his Premier League appearances at Hull last year.

Still, it is testament to what Tottenham are facing in the market now. Fair or not, they are often having to pay inflated sums for well-regarded players they want to join their ranks.

David Ramos/Getty Images
Spurs charging what they did for players like Gareth Bale has also meant them having to pay more for other clubs' own star players.

It is a phenomenon that, certainly in England, is partly of their own doing. Chairman Daniel Levy and the club's hierarchy held out for big fees for the likes of Dimitar Berbatov (£30.75 million to Manchester United in 2008) and Gareth Bale (£85 million from Real Madrid last year).

It was within their right to get good compensation from other clubs taking their best players, but in a fairer world you could argue neither of the aforementioned two were worth that much.

Understandably, others are now doing the same to Spurs. Be it Roma with Erik Lamela (upwards of £25 million) and Valencia with Roberto Soldado (£26 million) last year, or Southampton for Schneiderlin and Rodriguez now (the forward could only be £8 million, but considering he is out with a knee injury until the autumn it is arguably a risk).

Since the turn of the decade especially, these well-known or highly touted players have made up the bulk of Spurs' transfer targets.

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Up until the last couple of years, many of the younger players in the Tottenham first-team squad were recruited from elsewhere. Danny Rose was snapped up from Leeds United as a 17-year-old in 2007.

Not all have cost as much as Lamela did, or Schneiderlin potentially might. But the likes of Scott Parker, Emmanuel Adebayor, Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen have been purchases others might have snapped up if they did not.

The move away from recruiting younger, lesser-known players (Zeki Fryers was the last in January 2013) is partly because Spurs have a good crop of their own produced young talent to call on right now. Where they have bought Danny Rose and Kyle Walker from outside previously, for now at least there is confidence in the ability of Harry Kane, Tom Carroll and Ryan Fredericks etc. to be good enough to bulk up the squad.

The idea of "under-the-radar" signings—if we define them as either unexpected, or lesser-known but intriguing recruits—has not completely gone away. Last week's addition to the squad of Swansea City goalkeeper Michel Vorm happened after emerging in the rumour mill quite suddenly.

This was a player fresh from being part of Holland's World Cup squad, and who has been the Swans' much-admired first-choice shot-stopper since 2011. Choosing to give that up for the hard task of competing with Spurs' current No. 1 Hugo Lloris will not have been predicted by anyone beforehand.

Rodriguez and Schneiderlin might not have been of interest to Spurs, but for their association with their former Saints boss, Pochettino. But each are players who have seen their respective reputations sufficiently enhanced in recent years to the point they are not guys the club are plucking out of nowhere thanks only to someone on the staff with an eagle-eye for talent.

Tottenham might catch us off-guard by bringing in a hidden gem from time-to-time still. But it seems less notable a part of their planning than it once was.

Football is continuing to change, and Spurs are one of several clubs just shopping in different circles these days.

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