With next Friday’s 11pm deadline looming, Levy’s club is in an all-too-familiar position of attempting to find buyers for a raft of unwanted players.
Spurs have offloaded just three players this summer — Harry Winks, Joe Rodon and Harry Kane — and the slow progress of outgoings has effectively forced the club to put further new signings on ice until a bloated squad has been trimmed down to size.
“The reality is we can’t just keep acquiring players,” said head coach Ange Postecoglou last week. “We’ve got too big a squad as it is.”
There are at least six senior players on the transfer list — Hugo Lloris, Tanguy Ndombele, Japhet Tanganga, Djed Spence, Sergio Reguilon and Harvey White — while Troy Parrott and Alfie Devine are among the young players who Spurs are eager to send out on loan.
The club would consider offers for Eric Dier, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Davinson Sanchez, who has somewhat played his way back into contention but is out of contract next summer. Dier, also into the final year of his deal, wants to fight for his place unless told he is not part of the boss’s plans this week.
Bryan Gil and Ryan Sessegnon are likely to stay put as they recover from surgery, although the former could be fit in a couple of months, so there is a chance a club could still be tempted by a season-long loan.
Movement so far has been frustratingly slow, but the transfer window always gathers pace in the final week, when deal-makers blink or desperate clubs start splashing cash, leaving Spurs hopeful they could still clear the decks and add to Postecoglou’s squad.
The problem Spurs have is that many of their unwanted players, some on hefty pre-Covid salaries, have either not played enough football in the last couple of years or else not played well.
Reguilon, for example, started just two league games on loan at Atletico Madrid last term, leaving Spurs struggling to convince suitors of his worth, despite him being named LaLiga’s best left-back in 2019-20.
Similarly, Ndombele won the Serie A title on loan at Napoli last season, but was largely used from the bench, and is preceded by a growing reputation as a poor trainer: Postecoglou is the fifth Spurs manager to quickly grow frustrated with the mercurial Frenchman, who has turned down interest from Turkey.
Spence did well enough on loan at Rennes but is desperate to stay in the Premier League, and there have so far been no top-flight suitors for the 23-year-old.
In the case of Lloris, who was left out of Spurs’s pre-season tour on July 14 in order to find a new club, progress has been laborious. Spurs would like a fee for the 36-year-old, who has a year remaining on his deal, while Lloris is reluctant to be a No2, contributing to the recent collapse of a proposed move to Lazio. The goalkeeper’s wages are also complicating a departure.
Away from the situations of individuals, there are more systemic reasons for the delays. Firstly, Spurs are not unique. Most leading Premier League clubs are struggling to offload unwanted players — see Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku, Nicolas Pepe at Arsenal or Manchester United’s Harry Maguire — due to the growing financial chasm between the English top-flight and European leagues.
Very few clubs on the continent can afford the wages of, say, Ndombele or Lloris, while players are often unwilling to take a significant pay cut or drop down a level. Lesser Premier League clubs, meanwhile, are reluctant to take a punt on Spurs’s outcasts when they are yet to prove themselves at this level.
Daniel Levy lacks the extensive contacts of Spurs’s erstwhile director Fabio Paratici.
Spurs’s struggle to offload players is likely a reflection of the club’s current structure, too.
In lieu of a director of football, Levy continues to lead on all deals, with support on outgoings from director Rebecca Caplehorn, and there has long been a perception in the game that the chairman asks too much for unwanted players and is particularly unwilling to write off expensive assets.
The chairman can only work on so many things at once (his workload is further increased because Scott Munn, the club’s incoming chief football officer, is still yet to join) and lacks the extensive contacts of Spurs’s erstwhile managing director of football Fabio Paratici, who last summer arranged loans for Ndombele and Winks in his native Italy, as well as deals to send Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso to Spain.
Postecoglou has acknowledged that some of Spurs’s unwanted players may still be at the club after the deadline but, positively, the Australian has said he is willing to be flexible and work with those who do not find new clubs.