[Ed: This may be a little, shall we say, contrary to general United fan opinion. But sit back and try to wrap your heads around it for a change.]
“God, don’t we all just want Daniel Levy to fuck off? I mean, I can’t see why he doesn’t just accept defeat and sell us Berbatov. He knows he’s going to have to eventually anyway, so he should just get it over with now so we can all get on with our lives. And that tapping-up complaint he filed is a load of shit. By the time he gets his head out of his arse, we’ll be five points off the pace. He is behaving unprofessionally and generally like a cock, and I hate him.”
Do you agree with the above? Then you must be a blinkered United fan like me, because any objective (or for that matter, and other type of) observer should have nothing but praise for Levy’s actions.
Spurs have seemed the most likely entrants into the elite Top 4 Club for the last few years, and barring a dodgy lasagne they would probably have consigned Arsenal to a season in the UEFA Cup. They are now routinely signing some of the best young talent both from the UK and abroad, along with some shrewd purchases of more experienced players. Bale, Woodgate, Hutton, Bentley, Zokora, Bent (admittedly at a hugely inflated price), dos Santos, Modric and, or course, Berbatov have been added to home-grown talent like King, Lennon and Huddlestone. It’s an impressive squad, albeit one whose last eighteen months have been characterised by underachievement.
Until they secure the sacred Champions League place, many of their players will harbour higher ambitions. And the top 4 will see their closest rival as an obvious place to go to pick up Premiership-proven talent, because it should be easier to buy from within the PL than from top continental sides. However, to sustain a challenge for membership of the elite, Spurs need to keep broadly the same squad together for a handful of seasons, so they can grow as a team. At the moment, much to the delight of United and co, they are in danger of becoming a feeder club.
So Levy’s behaviour during this intensely tedious and drawn-out saga is entirely in Spurs’ best interests. In the short term, he will secure an above-market price for a player who has mentally already left the building, funding further investment in the current squad. But more importantly, in the long term he has sent a clear message for the January window and beyond:
“I can’t stop you bidding for our players, but if you want to sign one of our stars then be prepared for us to make the transfer more miserable, disruptive, drawn-out, inconvenient and expensive than you could imagine. If you think you can come over here, tickle our tummies and take the players we scouted and we bedded into the Premiership and do so without a fight, you’re very much mistaken. Now fuck off before I report you to the FA for something.”
And who can blame him. We picked off Carrick two seasons ago, Berba is still (I believe) almost certain to follow; only the da Silva twins will deter us from tracking Hutton and Bale; and we’d probably have tried to sign Lennon already if he could stay fit for more than two games in a row. That sort of interest inevitably leads to cordial relations souring – think of PSV, who provided us with Jaap Stam, Ruud and Park, but have since made it clear that we’re not really welcome anymore, evidenced by our failure to secure players like Arjen Robben.
Robbie Keane, incidentally, is an exception to the rule. For one thing, Liverpool paid way too much for him – he may only be 28, but he is a big gamble for that amount of money. Also, he has been with Spurs through thick and thin since 2002, and nobody at Spurs could deny him a shot at the Champions League before he is too old. It would be comparable to Ole asking us for a transfer a year before his injury – we’d have hated to see him go, but he’d have gone with our blessing.
Berbatov, on the other hand, took four months of his first season to settle in, had a purple patch, immediately started agitating for a move, and then sulked for a while when he didn’t get it. Spurs are treating him with just the same loyalty as he has treated them. So whilst, as a United fan, I subscribe to all the views I started the article with, as a follower of football I think Levy has it spot on.
Oh, and I got all the way through without drawing a comparison with Ronaldo – it would have been too easy.