Forget Gareth Bale - the only way is up for Tottenham
Andre Villas-Boas' signings this summer highlight Spurs' ambitions for the future
If you had gone up to a Spurs fan two months ago and asked him about his expectations for the on-going transfer window, he probably would've responded with some level of dejected pessimism.
Spurs had narrowly missed out on Champions League football for the second season running, this time to North London rivals Arsenal of all teams; talismanic winger-turned-forward Gareth Bale had been linked with a move to Real Madrid, and the failure in signings one of the likes of Leandro Damiao, David Villa or Christian Benteke did not bode well.
Manager Andre Villas-Boas had been linked with moves to Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona, and despite the appointment of Franco Baldini as Technical Director, the right signings were proving to be hard to come by.
Spurs fans couldn't be blamed for thinking that the club's best chance of finishing above Arsenal (and in the Champions League qualification spots) in the Premier League had slipped right through their fingers.
Fast forward to today, and most Spurs fans are probably finding it difficult to contain their optimism for the coming season, and cannot wait for the short trip to Selhurst Park for the opening game of the campaign. Part of this outlook may have to do with Arsene Wenger's abysmal failure to strengthen his Arsenal squad, but to focus on that would be an injustice to the excellent work that Villas-Boas, Levy and Co. have done behind the scenes at White Hart Lane.
While the Gareth Bale saga continues to rumble without any signs of slowing down, Levy has done well to fend off the overtures of interest in the Welshman from Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, and as we approach the end of the transfer window, it seems increasingly likely that the player will have to spend another season at White Hart Lane before talks of a move to Madrid can resurface.
However, Spurs fans will be feeling most encouraged by the acquisitions that the club has made in the last two months.
A week after the conclusion of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil, Spurs confirmed the signing of Brazilian midfielder and the third-best player of the tournament, Paulinho, for a fee of just over £17 million, a club record fee at the time.
In two weeks, they added pacey Belgian winger Nacer Chadli to the roster, for a fee that--weighing in at £7 million - could prove to be a bargain over the next few years.
The biggest sign of the club's Champions League ambitions was to come on August 1, when the club agreed a deal with La Liga side Valencia for the transfer of the Spanish striker Roberto Soldado for a new club record fee of 26 million pounds.
Villas-Boas recently made his fourth major signing of the window by snatching French midfielder Etienne Capoue from the clutches of Cardiff City and Arsenal for a fee of around £9 million.
With over two weeks still left before Premier League clubs must officially put a stop to their transfer activity, one can be assured of the fact that Spurs will bring in two, if not three, players to boost their squad ahead of a campaign that could make or break the club's chances of catching up with the league's powerhouse sides Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.
Players like Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld have all been linked with the Lilywhites, and Villas-Boas still has cracks in his squad that he must attend to.
Spurs have always been considered a selling club, and the departures of Tom Huddlestone, Clint Dempsey and Steven Caulker only add weight to that claim.
However, the fact that Spurs have managed to keep their star attraction Bale, and have then spent almost 60 million pounds on four quality players goes to show that they consider themselves ready to make the jump from being outsiders for the Champions League qualification spots to genuine contenders.
The club seems to have realised that the only way forward in the Premier League is to match the spending of City, Chelsea and United, and are not afraid to spend big bucks on proven international players.
The three major attacking signings that Villas-Boas made in his first season in charge were Gylfi Sigurdsson, Clint Dempsey and Lewis Holtby. While people were happy with these acquisitions, citing a show of intent from the Portuguese manager, one has to realise that none of these players are quite good enough for a side that aims to rub shoulders with the likes of European powerhouses Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus.
I always believed, and still maintain, that the signings AVB made last season (with the exception of Jan Vertonghen, Moussa Dembele and Hugo Lloris of course!) were just transitionary signings; players who could help take the club's on-field performances to the level that would attract the bigger names of European football - like Roberto Soldado, for example.
Just like Sir Alex Ferguson didn't sign Eric Cantona in his very first season in charge at United, Villas-Boas used his first season at White Hart Lane to bed in at the club and effectively communicate his ideas for progress on the pitch as well as off it, before attempting to make wholesale changes to the squad in order to tailor it to suit his exact needs.
What we saw in the 2012-2013 season was nothing more than the laying of the foundation for what Villas-Boas and Levy are planning at Spurs.
The real test began this summer. Already an influential presence at the club, AVB called for the appointment of Baldini to oversee affairs off the pitch, and then turned his attention to the pitch. Having established across Europe that Spurs can play a brand of football that combines tactical ingenuity and an attacking philosophy, Villas-Boas is now looking for the kind of players who can not only fit into his scheme of things, but can help take the club to the next level.
Sigurdsson and Holtby are clearly not up for the job, but Paulinho and Soldado? These are players that Spurs couldn't have dreamed of signing a few years ago.
It is a testament to the work that Villas-Boas and Levy have done to increase Spurs' value as a genuine attraction for the world's best talent that players of the immense calibre of Soldado--a former Real Madrid player--Paulinho (a certain starting XI player for Brazil) and Chadli (one of the promising new wave of Belgian midfielders) have joined the club despite the lack of immediate Champions League football.
Spurs are proving to be a fast-growing entity in English football, and although challenging for the title will still take a couple of years, the transfer activity at White Hart Lane bodes extremely well for the future.
Villas-Boas has not only established his credentials as a tactically astute manager, but has also developed an eagle eye for talent in the transfer window. He has already brought some exciting names to North London, and will continue to do so as he works on what is looking like an extremely promising project at the club.
Spurs fans will be impressed by the acquisitions of Soldado and Capoue, but I truly feel like they are only just the beginning. Success this season will attract even better players, thus offering a stepping stone to exponentially greater achievements in the next; and so it shall continue. Villas-Boas' association with Spurs is still in its infancy, and it will be in everyone's interest to follow his progress at the club with a keen eye; Spurs could benefit in the long term from the kind of project he was never allowed to incorporate at Chelsea.
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