Believe it or not, sometimes it’s partly about football
Harry Redknapp is upset after Tottenham missed out on the signing of Juan Mata, claiming: “It’s all about wages.” It’s fair to say that money dictates football in several ways and, yes, in many transfer deals it’s partly about the wages. For some more than others. Kris Commons opting to sign for Derby County over Nottingham Forest – clearly all about money. Cesc Fabregas going back to Barcelona, less so. Now Mata has revealed he turned down the opportunity to join Arsenal and Spurs, preferring a move to Stamford Bridge over north London.
Can you really blame him? Of course, money plays its part. If somebody sends you a cheque for your birthday, for many people the first thought will not be ‘Ah, that’s nice’, but more likely ‘How much?’. But while Harry likes to believe that in these transfer deals – or at least tell the media it’s what he believes – that Mata and players of his class would choose Chelsea over Spurs purely for money, it just is not the case. Although people relish the opportunity to criticise these overpaid prima donnas because billionaire owners seeking instant and undeserved success are willing to offer them in excess of £100,000-a-week, they may be staggered to learn that some of them do actually enjoy playing football and winning trophies.
It may be encouraging for Tottenham fans to see that their club demonstrating ambition in attempting to sign players of the calibre of Mata or Sergio Aguero, but unfortunately, they would have to concede that Spurs are punching above their weight. Yes, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United can come in and offer more money, but they can also offer Champions League football and trophies. It’s not like Spurs have been in a position to offer much work to anyone in the trophy cabinet business in recent seasons, unlike Chelsea or United. At Stamford Bridge, Mata will get Champions League football, a shot at winning the Premiership and the chance to play alongside the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres. No disrespect to Spurs but you’re never going to win the Balon d’Or playing Europa League football alongside the likes of Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch.
Redknapp has also suggested that Luka Modric’s desire to leave White Hart Lane will evaporate if Daniel Levy offers the midfielder a new contract. Again, it has to be said that it can’t all be about money with Modric. He feels that should a sensible offer be made, he should be given the opportunity to talk to top clubs, i.e. clubs bigger than Tottenham, with more chance of success. Fair enough, Spurs obviously don’t want to gain a reputation as a selling club and are keen to hold on to their best players, particularly those tied down to long contracts. But they need to accept that they are no longer being invited to the ‘Top Four’ party. Does Harry really believe that Phil Jones, Stewart Downing, Ashley Young and Juan Mata all snubbed Spurs purely to earn more money elsewhere?
A new contract for Modric will solve nothing. Spurs are certainly entitled to reject all offers for the player (or at least squeeze Chelsea for all they can get) since he was daft enough to sign a six-year extension to his contract last summer. But this talk about Modric’s “head being turned” with the promise of his earnings being tripled is bull honky. It also comes from the man who abandoned Portsmouth at the drop of a hat for a bigger club with more money in Tottenham and will happily wave a fond farewell to White Hart Lane as soon as the FA come knocking on his door.
Equally, complaining that Manchester City and Chelsea have more financial clout than Tottenham will solve nothing. What Spurs really need to do is go back in time to last summer and strengthen their squad. Having done so well to earn Champions League football – at the expense of big-spending Manchester City, remember – Daniel Levy should have been doing all he could to attract more players of Rafael Van der Vaart’s stature to ensure they were in a position to retain their Champions League status. Chelsea and Manchester City can not only offer better wages than those on offer at White Hart Lane, but they also have Champions League football. Spurs meanwhile proved to the Premier League and the rest of Europe that their best players, like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, are more than capable of cutting it at the very top level and these guys want to continue to play at this elite level.
Strengthen from a position of strength because once you fall out of that top four, it becomes difficult to claw your way back in. Just ask Liverpool. Or Leeds United for that matter.