Here we go again. Same old Tottenham Hotspur. One step forward, two steps back.
Although unconfirmed, it looks increasingly likely that Daniel Levy will sell Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.
With that departure, most observers – except maybe Tottenham fans – will accept that any hope of bettering last season’s fifth-placed league finish is dashed.
Who can blame Levy? A bid of £87m for the PFA Player of the Year represents a huge profit for the attacker who – in spite of his evident class – has only had one season to justify such a colossal valuation.
Bale’s expected exit signals the end for this Tottenham side. Not necessarily in terms of success, but certainly in terms of style.
But by no means is it a death sentence for the 2011 Champions League quarter-finalists.
Two players defined Harry Redknapp’s free-flowing side – which rose from the ashes of the mess left by Juande Ramos.
Luka Modric’s brilliance fed Bale’s pacey runs, and also provided the playmaking which gave Tottenham’s passing fluency, purpose and swagger.
With Modric gone, and Bale expected to follow him to the Bernabéu, the traits that have defined Tottenham’s play in recent seasons will evaporate.
However, this will provide a window for the club to evolve.
Tottenham have been uncharacteristically swift in softening the blow of Bale’s likely departure, and have shown real intent with their investment.
Record signing Roberto Soldado arrives from Valencia with an impressive 30 goals in 46 games for the Spaniard’s last season. The 28-year-old is a complete, intelligent centre forward with tremendous technique. He should justify his £26m price tag, and plug Spurs’ gaping hole in attack.
Brazilian Paulinho joins in a £17m deal from Corinthians, and the 25-year-old has the potential to conjure goals whilst adding a touch of classic South American flair.
It remains to be seen if Madrid will offer a makeweight as part of the Bale deal, but if they do, Tottenham have the opportunity to shrewdly acquire a high calibre player.
They appear to have missed out on preferred option Alvaro Morata, with Los Blancos deeming the Spanish under-21 international to be central to the club’s future plans.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti seems prepared to allow either Portuguese full-back Fábio Coentrão, or Argentine winger Ángel di María to join Tottenham, and either player would be a strong addition to manager André Villas-Boas’ squad.
In any case, if neither player joins Spurs then they will still have a large transfer kitty if Bale goes.
His commercial value and international appeal are undoubtedly huge, unavoidable losses, but the money earned will provide Tottenham with a huge cash boost.
However, should he join Madrid, Bale will leave behind a Tottenham side boasting not only the lavish summer signings of Paulinho and Soldado, but also a solid, quickly-improving supporting cast.
Jan Vertonghen was one of the Premier League’s outstanding centre backs last season, while the underrated Mousa Dembele has been a strong and reliable addition to Tottenham’s midfield. When fit, Sandro provides an excellent partner for Dembele, while Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is also relatively young but highly-experienced.
‘Who will light Tottenham’s attacking fuse?’ I hear you ask. The simple reality is that very few clubs on earth, if any, could afford to directly replace a player of Gareth Bale’s quality and influence.
Put simply other squad members will have to take the initiative to provide attacking inspiration.
They need to evolve, incorporating the expensive new signings, and putting faith in Villas-Boas’ tactical model in the process.
Let us not forget this is a coach who has been an undeniably important factor in Bale’s progress, and skyrocketing value.
A coach who has expanded Bale’s repertoire beyond being an electric winger with great end product, to a fluid, free-scoring, game-changing attacker.
A coach who aged 35, has already managed three of Europe’s top clubs, winning a quadruple at Porto in 2011.
Since he arrived at White Hart Lane, the reduction of top-down pressure, media bombardment, and dissident stars have resulted in a visibly more relaxed Villas-Boas.
With the expected departure of Bale, most pundits will have already written-off Tottenham’s chances of claiming a Champions League spot.
But this only serves as an advantage to AVB, who can now quietly set about his task of getting his side back into Europe’s elite club competition, without too much outside scrutiny.
All things considered, this is not a Tottenham side in a bad condition.
Yes, they were over-reliant on Bale last season. But they have also evolved very well since Modric’s departure.
The immediate example that springs to mind is Arsenal’s loss of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Robin van Persie.
Although Arsenal have not improved, they have – to their credit – maintained a stable league standing in the last two years.
Tottenham have an advantage in this respect. Unlike Arsenal, they have acted quickly, have spent money, and prepared for the loss of their star player.
They say out of difficulty arises opportunity.
Here lies Andre Villas-Boas’ chance to make Tottenham his own, and take Tottenham forward, rather than back.
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