Tottenham are in America at the moment - the Mickey Mouse jokes wrote themselves last week, so we didn’t bother. Anyway, this week, they’ve upscaled a bit, and they’re in New York for an International Champions Cup match against Roma tonight.
As part of their trip, they did what a lot of people do, and went to the stock exchange. Daniel Levy and Spurs’ management rang the bell at NASDAQ this morning, and afterwards, Levy gave a very interesting interview. It was an interview about the state of Spurs, the state of the Premier League, and all that sort of general fluff-piece stuff, and Levy didn’t say anything surprising or shocking.
What he did say, though, should sound very familiar to most of us that are Arsenal fans. When asked about league spending, for instance:
“My view is that it’s totally unsustainable,” Levy said after ringing the Nasdaq opening bell in Times Square on Spurs’ pre-season tour of the US. “I’m not sure if that’s the view of the other Premier League clubs, but certainly the prices that are being paid for other Premier League players, I can’t see it being sustainable in the long term. We’ve managed the club, we think, in a very appropriate way.”
I don’t know if Arsene has ever used the word “unsustainable”, but Levy’s thoughts on how his club is run are very close to Arsene’s career-long philosophy of responsible financial stewardship. As for Spurs’ legacy overall:
“I think I am a custodian of this football club. This club has been around since 1882 and when I leave it will be somebody else. I think we have a duty to manage the club appropriately.”
Again, this is a good thing to say, but it’s also chapter and verse from the Arsene Wenger Philosophy Of Football. Wenger has always seen himself as a steward of something bigger than himself, not as a short term vehicle to make himself look good, and it’s good that Levy is in the same boat. As far as his team’s future growth goes, he says:
“We’re now investing in the stadium. The stadium is fundamental because with that we get more fans and more income and that’s the way to clearly have a more sustainable business.”
Who else did this just over a decade ago? Oh right! Arsenal! I’m not saying that Arsenal invented the concept of the new stadium - I live in the US, I’m not an idiot, I know how sports works - but the sustainable business bit is very much Arsenal’s rationale as well.
Then, Levy starts talking about player acquisitions, and things get kinda funny.
“We don’t have to go and spend £20, £30m, £40m on a player and obviously that homegrown player has an affinity with the club that a player we buy doesn’t. That’s what the fans want to see.”
Do they, though? In this day and age of unfettered player movement and its resulting lack of loyalty to a club (which was largely a fan perception anyway), I’m not sure it matters so much whether a player is homegrown or not except in the roster construction sense.
His last words on players were:
“We have to find the right balance but I can honestly say it is not impacting us on transfer activity because we are not yet in a place where we have found a player that we want to buy who we cannot afford to buy.”
It’ll be interesting to see what happens when they do find that player. In a related note, Levy also dropped this gem about transfers:
"Regardless of the stadium project, today our position on transfers is that we have a coach that very much believes in the academy."
In other words, Spurs fans, don’t expect anything big to happen on the transfer front until several years after the stadium is done. Sound familiar, Arsenal fans?
I don’t say any of this as a slight to Levy. Building a stadium that you’re financing yourself is a tremendously complex endeavor. I just find it funny that he’s saying almost exactly the same things Arsenal’s staff and board said in the mid-2000’s.
My thing, though, is that, with current perceptions what they are, Levy will no doubt be lauded for his financial sense in saying all these things, while Wenger has been roundly condemned for saying essentially the same things over the years. Any guesses on whether Levy will be in charge of Spurs in 20 years, with multiple titles and two decades of Champions League qualification under his team’s belt?