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08 August 2017

Neymar fever sweeps Europe, but it’s hard not to admire Tottenham’s bloody-minded refusal to splash out

NEYMAR fever is raging and football spending is sweeping Europe like the wild fires of the continent’s summer heatwave.

And so it’s difficult not to admire the sheer bloody-minded differentness of Tottenham Hotspur.

Neymar switching from Barcelona to PSG has sent Elite-level European football into a frenzy - but Spurs have stuck to their principles of not splashing out
Neymar switching from Barcelona to PSG has sent Elite-level European football into a frenzy – but Spurs have stuck to their principles of not splashing out
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Spurs chief Mauricio Pochettino seems set to make do with the same squad as last year, minus £45m right-back Kyle Walker
Spurs chief Mauricio Pochettino seems set to make do with the same squad as last year, minus £45m right-back Kyle Walker
Getty Images – Getty

As a shopaholic sport goes bananas, Spurs — Lord love ’em — have not spent a single bean.

Tottenham’s balance sheet is so wonderfully avant-garde chairman Daniel Levy should enter it for the Turner Prize.

If Spurs win the Premier League having achieved a lower net spend than any other Premier League club over five years, it would arguably be a more sensational achievement even than Leicester’s title triumph.

It’s only because Tottenham’s name evokes sepia-tinted memories of success that we don’t readily realise quite how wonderfully they have done to challenge for the title and finish above both free-spending Manchester clubs for the past two seasons.

Anyone without top-six allegiances should be roaring on Mauricio Pochettino’s church mice to win the rat race. They are eye-catching, dynamic and not just willing to promote youth, but seemingly hell-bent on it.

Yet if you’re a Spurs fan, you’ll be acutely aware that spending the least amount of money isn’t actually the point of football.


Neymar moved to PSG last week for a world record £196m fee while Spurs have kept their wallet shut
Neymar moved to PSG last week for a world record £196m fee while Spurs have kept their wallet shut
Splash News
Mauricio Pochettino will rely on established talent like England striker Harry Kane - and the fact his side should still be improving
Mauricio Pochettino will rely on established talent like England striker Harry Kane – and the fact his side should still be improving
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It’s not what supporters crave. It’s not what clubs rev up open-top buses to celebrate. It’s not what Chas &  Dave release records to commemorate.

No, it’s supposed to be about that most Spursy word of all . . . glory.

Spurs haven’t won silverware in nine seasons. Disregard the League Cup and it’s 26 years.

Supporters are rightly concerned that a vibrant young side on the brink of greatness might break up and be remembered as one of the best teams never to win a trophy.

And of course, it’s not just the supporters, it’s the players themselves.

As the club’s longest-serving first-teamer Danny Rose said in a Radio Five interview in May: “A player might feel he has done enough at Tottenham and might fancy a change or might feel Tottenham is the nearly club that nearly wins the league and might choose to move on.”

Spurs supremo Daniel Levy has stuck to a rigid transfer policy despite rivals splashing out
Spurs supremo Daniel Levy has kept a rigid policy despite rivals splashing out
Getty Images – Getty

Players aren’t stupid. They realise Spurs don’t have the wealth of United, City or Chelsea and recognise a new stadium is a long-term necessity which will bring a period of relative financial restraint — ‘relative’ to  the fact Spurs trousered £148million in TV and prize money last season.

Players might even be willing to accept lower wages than they could earn elsewhere if they feel their club is moving, even sensibly, in the right direction.

Likewise, most supporters realise that haemorrhaging money in the transfer market brings no guarantees.

How will Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham line up for the 2017-18 season?

But players and fans need to feel their club is showing  reasonable ambition and this summer.  Spurs have not.

Kyle Walker left for an initial £45million and hasn’t been replaced. Spurs’ only senior right-back Kieran Trippier is now injured.

More effective back-up for Harry Kane looked a priority. When the England striker was injured last season, Spurs got away with it. Next time they might not be so lucky.

Spurs lost England right-back Kyle Walker to Manchester City for £45m
Spurs lost England right-back Kyle Walker to Manchester City for £45million
Getty – Contributor

And having struggled last autumn to cope with the demands of the Champions League, a general improvement in squad depth also seemed essential.

Tottenham’s situation is even more troubling because of the Wembley factor.

Spurs signed off from their soulful old White  Hart Lane home with an astonishing 17 consecutive victories.

West Ham’s move to the London Stadium cost them nine home points last season. It would be a surprise if Spurs — who only dropped four at the Lane all season — do not suffer even more.

Tottenham’s relocation from the old Lane to Wembley to the new Lane  means two seasons of feeling their way into a new home.

A player might consider two seasons is a significant chunk of his short career.

And as Rose inferred, two more years at a ‘nearly club’ might feel like a very long time.

Virgin on the absurd

TOP marks to Sky’s Jamie Carragher for keeping a straight face while suggesting Virgil van Dijk will inevitably move on – presumably to his beloved Liverpool.

Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk is still a major target for Liverpool
Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk is still a major target for Liverpool
PA:Press Association

The ex-Red claims it is a result of football’s natural ‘food chain’ — but then swiftly insisted Philippe Coutinho will not get his  move to Barcelona this summer.

Liverpool have used Southampton as a nursery club for three years now. The belief they can add Van Dijk is seemingly unaffected by the apology they issued after Saints reported them for tapping up.

VVD signed a six-year deal in May 2016, so the Saints can hold him to it, just as they kept Morgan Schneiderlin for a year after his public tantrum when demanding a move  in 2014.

Now that every Prem club is obscenely wealthy, none actually need to sell players.

And a transfer request does not inevitably lead to a transfer — just like Steven  Gerrard’s didn’t when he wanted to move up the financial ‘food chain’ to Chelsea in 2005.

Liverpool hope they can keep star man Philippe Coutinho despite the strong interest of Barcelona
Liverpool hope they can keep star man Philippe Coutinho despite the strong interest of Barcelona after the sale of Neymar to PSG
Rex Features

Year’s hoping

IF you’re a supporter of a Premier League club you’ll be feeling it now.

If you follow a Football League team, it’ll have been last week.

It’s that often irrat-ional sensation of optimism approaching the dawn of a brand new season.

Even the  many of us whose teams have ultimately broken our hearts through our entire lives can’t help but feel a bit of ‘Maybe this year’.

Yeovil  fans will have felt it  travelling to Luton for their League Two opener.

Right up until their heroes went 5-1 down before half-time, en route to an 8-2 defeat.

Next year. Maybe next year . . .

There’s Mo one better for England

WHETHER it is because he is  a swashbuckling batsman and a wicket-taking spinner or because he is both a proud Englishman and a devout Muslim, there can be few current sportsmen as admirable as Moeen Ali.

All-rounder Moeen Ali was the Englnd hero against South Africa and will be a national treasure if he repeats the trick in the Ashes series
All-rounder Moeen Ali was the Englnd hero against South Africa and will be a national treasure if he repeats the trick in the Ashes series
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If the Man of the Series in England’s 3-1 win over South Africa can play as well in an Ashes triumph this winter, then our Moeen will prove he really is a true national treasure.

Plugging the Holl for equal rights

IT’S refreshing to see the England women’s football and cricket teams earn higher profiles during a breakthrough summer.

A reward for some  forward-thinking at the FA and ECB.

And when the football team ended up being panned for a dismal   3-0 Euro semi-final loss to Holland, it seemed they had achieved true gender equality.

They deserve each other…

DURING a world lightweight title fight in   1912, Ad Wolgast and Joe Rivers landed simultaneous blows and knocked each other spark out.

Floyd Mayweather Jr and Conor McGregor square up to each other ahead of their mega-money fight
Floyd Mayweather Jr and Conor McGregor square up to each other ahead of their mega-money fight later this month
AP:Associated Press

After listening to Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor ahead of  their August 26 freak show, it’s comforting to know that it is not a physical impossibility . . .

Pundits will come a cropper with Propper

BRIGHTON’S new signing is called Davy Propper.

So fair play to any commentator able to say his name without sounding like one of the EastEnders’ Mitchell brothers  or a character from a Guy Ritchie  movie.

New name, old shame

ATHLETICS has been blighted by drug scandals and sordid tales of corruption   for decades, so the IAAF have come up with a solution.

The worldwide governing body is thinking of changing its name. It’s going to be a ‘re-brand’. That’ll do the trick. Genius.


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