Tottenham must treat manager hunt like a star player search and spend big
When the curtain comes down on the Premier League season on Sunday, it will feel like an act of mercy for Tottenham, bringing to an end their on-field woes — at least until mid-August.
For supporters hoping to tune out, the bad news is that Spurs’s off-field dramas are showing few signs of abating, with the club’s search for a new boss set to continue into the summer and appearing increasingly chaotic.
The most recent name in the frame, Arne Slot, yesterday committed to Feyenoord following interest from Spurs, forcing the club into another rethink.
Feyenoord were demanding compensation in the region of £15million for Slot and three of his staff, which is understood to have complicated Spurs’s pursuit of the 44-year-old Dutchman.
Spurs have played down suggestions that they baulked at the Eredivisie club’s demands, but the speculation raises the question of just how much a good coach is worth?
Clubs of Spurs’s stature routinely spend £15-20m on players — and that does not buy top quality these days — but are often reluctant to pay similar fees for coaches.
The world-record fee for a manager is thought to be the £21.7m Bayern Munich paid to extract Julian Nagelsmann from his RB Leipzig contract, although Chelsea’s reported £21.5m spend to prize Graham Potter from Brighton is a close second.
Nagelsmann and Potter both underwhelmed, underlining the risks associated with spending big on managers, and in the case of Slot, £15m is considerable for a manager who has no experience outside of the Eredivisie — particularly when his current contract includes a £6m buy-out clause next summer.
Spurs, though, spent £40m on a right wing-back with no Premier League experience in Pedro Porro mid-season and £60m to sign Richarlison — always likely to initially be a squad player — and are preparing for a summer clear-out, where ruthlessness is likely to be required with a number of expensive flops.
The right manager is surely worth their weight in gold, potentially delivering huge returns through success on the pitch, developing youth and improving under-performing players. Perhaps, in the future, paying big fees for coaches will become the norm, as clubs protect their assets, but, for now, most outfits are reluctant to take the plunge.
Ange Postecoglou, the Celtic boss, has emerged as a serious contender after Slot’s decision to remain at De Kuip, while Nagelsmann and Luis Enrique are both out of work and have been admired by Spurs at one time or other.
Acting head coach Ryan Mason has said he wants the job, but Sunday’s visit to Leeds — who must win to have a chance of beating the drop — is likely to be his final game in charge.
Mason was parachuted into the most trying of circumstances, with the squad broken by Antonio Conte’s stinging criticism of their characters and the humiliating 6-1 defeat at Newcastle under Cristian Stellini.
He has improved the atmosphere at the training ground, made some improvements on the pitch going forward and won the admiration of several senior players in the squad.
As a rookie manager at this level, he would be a risky appointment, but is one of the supporters’ favourite sons — and the longer Spurs’s managerial search goes on, the more he feels like a potentially realistic contender.
The season could still end with European football and Spurs would seal a place in the Europa Conference League if they get a result and Aston Villa lose at home against Brighton.
If Spurs lose at Elland Road and Brentford get a result at home to champions Manchester City, they will be leapfrogged by the Bees and slip down to a dismal ninth, their lowest finish since 2007-08.