Premier League: Should Daniel Levy Be Blamed for Tottenham's Repeated Failures?

Sam Rooke@@SamRooke89Featured ColumnistAugust 13, 2014

Tottenham's chairman Daniel Levy takes his seat before his team's 6-0 loss at Manchester City in their English Premier League soccer match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday Nov. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

Tottenham Hotspur's 2013 spending spree was unprecedented.

For combined fees of approximately £105 million, they acquired Argentinian wonderkid Erik Lamela, lethal Spanish striker Roberto Soldado, Brazilian powerhouse Paulinho and Ajax's Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen, as well as Belgian winger Nacer Chadli and Romanian captain Vlad Chiriches. 

Despite the splurge, Spurs remained in a transfer surplus. The world-record sale of Gareth Bale headlined a substantial list of outgoing players. 

According to Matthew Dunn of the Express, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy was lauded by former Tottenham goalkeeper Erik Thorstvedt as having "sold Elvis and bought the Beatles."

But after a steady start, many of the summer arrivals failed to reach the expected heights and, following a 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool, manager Andre Villas-Boas was dismissed.  

Villas-Boas, now a figure of fun following his failures at two of London's biggest clubs, has been largely saddled with the blame, but is Daniel Levy deserving of a greater share of that ire?

Having replaced Alan Sugar as chairman following ENIC Investment Group's takeover in 2001, Levy has been closely involved in the gradual return of Spurs to England's elite.

Earning credibility through his prudent handling of Bill Nicholson's death in 2004, he was also wise enough to hand Martin Jol the manager's job after a brief spell as caretaker manager. 

Levy has consistently delivered excellent players for Spurs, often securing deals personally, but overall his success has been piecemeal.

A 2013 Daily Express profile of Levy quoted Olympique Lyonnais' president Jean-Michel Aulas describing negotiations with him as "the hardest I have ever had to undergo in 25 years." Again those were fruitful as Tottenham secured the signature of France captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. 

For every Lloris, though, there has been a Dimitar Berbatov. Levy defended the last-minute sale and subsequent failure to replace the Bulgarian striker, per Giles Mole's report in the Telegraph, but there is no doubt it contributed to Spurs' disastrous 2008-09 campaign. 

The sales of Berbatov and Robbie Keane left Spurs at their lowest ebb under Levy, and it was in that summer that he came under the strongest criticism. 

As Spurs limped to the infamous two points from eight games, Levy partially redeemed himself with the appointment of Harry Redknapp.

Redknapp dealt better with his chairman than most Tottenham managers have been able to. Although their fractious relationship ended with Redknapp's 2012 dismissal

The lesson from Redknapp's sacking seemed to be that Levy will not be dictated to. This attitude has served Spurs well in negotiations but has also been the undoing of Redknapp's predecessors and successor.

Bogdan Maran/Associated Press

An often-repeated and once seemingly apocryphal tale among Spurs fans is that, in the summer of 2007, manager Martin Jol asked Levy for a defensive midfielder, instead his chairman signed Kevin-Prince Boateng. The Ghanaian himself confirmed the story in 2009, according to the Portsmouth News.

It is another informative episode in Levy's time in charge. He is the architect of failure, but his managers pay the price. 

Similarly, defenders of Andre Villas-Boas have pointed to the fact that he asked Levy to sign players like Joao Moutinho, James Rodriguez and Hulk, as reported by Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail, but none arrived at White Hart Lane. 

Even Mauricio Pochettino, whose tenure has not even really yet begun, could complain that his main target has not been signed. The Argentinian made no secret of his intended reunion with Morgan Schneiderlin, according to Sky Sports.

Pochettino's hopes to sign the French midfielder appear to have been scuppered by a suddenly resilient Southampton

Alan Sugar has defended Levy in an interview with Sky Sports News, instead heaping the blame on Villas-Boas and sporting director Franco Baldini, saying "they went out like a kid in a sweet shop and they bought anything in sight."

Sugar's distaste for Villas-Boas, though, was evident from the moment he agreed to replace Harry Redknapp. Sugar described Tottenham legend Jurgen Klinsmann as "Carlos Kickaball," per BBC Sport, before signing Sergei Rebrov for a club-record fee, and his opinions hold little weight in a serious discussion. 

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - APRIL 26: FC Zenit St. Petersburg head coach Andre Villas-Boas gestures during the Russian Football League Championship match between FC Zenit St. Petersburg and FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod at the Petrovsky stadium on April 26, 2014
Epsilon/Getty Images

Indeed, according to the Daily Mail, AVB specifically rejected four of Spurs' seven signings in 2013. 

Last summer's spree suggested Levy had taken the memory of 2008 too much to heart. Instead of failing to replace outgoing stars, he bought too many. So much change is toxic to a football team. That, combined with Villas-Boas' evident loss of conviction left Levy with a new lesson to learn. 

Levy may have found the right balance in this summer's patient approach

The International Business Times described Levy's decision to remove Villas-Boas as betraying a lack of conviction in his own decisions. In truth, this season will prove the barometer.

Already, the pre-season has seen the green shoots of progress. Erik Lamela looks every bit the young star he was at Roma.

If Mauricio Pochettino proves to be closer to the man that Levy thought he had appointed in Villas-Boas, the signings of last summer may yet be adjudged shrewd. 

Albeit excruciatingly slow at times, Tottenham's progress under Levy's guidance is undeniable. Spurs now expect to finish in the top five places in the Premier League. Last season's total of 69 points was only three short of their Premier League record and yet, it was greeted as a failure. 

For now Daniel Levy has not earned a significant rebuke, but his legacy as Spurs chairman hinges on this season. Levy risked much of what he had gained under Jol and Redknapp by appointing AVB. His gamble stalled Spurs' previously inexorable progress. 

From this vantage point, before the season begins, Levy appears to have at least avoided repeating his mistakes. 


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