So the season starts in 9 days, and as this things stand, Spurs are one Harry Kane hamstring strain away from playing either Nathan Oduwa or Shaq Coulthirst, neither of whom lit up League 2 on loan last season, up top at Old Trafford.
Emmanuel Adebayor is rejoining Tim Sherwood at Aston Villa as I type, and we can all see some comedy occuring there. Roberto Soldado continues to be heavily linked with a move back to Spain, where he may well be right now, as he wasn’t invited to join the MLS junket in Denver.
The transfer of Saido Berahino from the Hawthorns to White Hart Lane, meanwhile, appears to have been sucked into some sort of time vortex, and has now gone into reverse. First the deal was due to be completed in 48 hours, then the clubs were £15 million apart on the fee, then Spurs were preparing to table a bid, and now West Brom have confirmed they’ve heard absolutely nothing. So let’s keep those “Berahino, he’s a yiddo” chants on ice, for the time being.
Sufficed to say, a few Spurs fans, myself included, are starting to get feel a tinge of panic. And it is a familiar panic, as we’ve been here before, many many times.
The striker situation at Spurs got me thinking about other clubs, and in particular Liverpool. If there are two clubs who have gone about their business in completely different ways this summer, it is these two.
Liverpool received praise for “getting deals done early”, but really what that meant was bringing in players early. Actually, they still have rather a lot of work to do on the sales front — their squad, currently, is huge. Spurs have drawn praise for finding value in the transfer market while other clubs go a bit mad and successfully limiting the losses on the Bale money duds, but there are a couple of massive holes that need filling.
As fans, we love to get signings done early. Brendan and Poch, they would surely prefer to have the players in, but a bloated squad can bog down preseason and cause headaches for coaches. However, chairmen/finance directors prefer to balance budgets and avoid risks of being saddled with contracts they can’t shift.
So I wondered, what is the cost of doing it the Liverpool way, namely getting the players in and then figuring out how to sell? Is there really much of a saving by doing things the Spurs way, or is this Daniel Levy pinching pennies at the expense of the preparedness of the squad for the new season?
Inspired by Jose Mourinho, I’ve gotten out my calculator.
First of all, I’m not using any sophisticated accounting analysis. Instead, I’m just considering the cost of having extra players on the payroll.
Second, let’s just look at the strike forces, as this is where the best comparison is to be had. I’ll add the best estimate of their weekly wage that I can find, but in particular for Ings I can’t find any detail at all due to the ongoing tribunal. We’ll put at at 60K — Liverpool pay far bigger wages than Spurs and free transfers like Ings command more anyway. We’ll assume a deal for Berahino will eventually happen, for the sake of argument.
Staying: Harry Kane (35K)
No longer required: Emmanuel Adebayor (100k), Roberto Soldado (80k)
Incoming: Saido Berahino (35K), A.N. Other (?K)
Staying: Daniel Sturridge (150K)
New arrivals: Christian Benteke (140K), Danny Ings (60K), Divock Origi(20K)
No longer required: Rickie Lambert (45K), Fabio Borini (60K), Mario Balotelli (80K).
So, let’s use Ings and Borini as an example, as their wages likely cancel each other out and Ings is the replacement for Borini as a 3rd or 4th choice striker. If Borini had left on July 1, when Ings joined, there would be zero cost. However, for the past 4 weeks, Liverpool have been paying Borini 60K per week — so £240,000 in dead money and counting. In the case of Ings, they couldn’t slow the deal — it had to be done on July 1 when his Burnley contract ended, so there was no possibility of saving wages by delaying his arrival.
The Balotelli situation is similar to Borini — his direct replacement, Christian Benteke, has already been signed and Balotelli remains on the Anfield payroll. It’s been a week so far, so 80K and counting.
Rickie Lambert is perhaps the strangest case as there are loads of clubs interested in him. I can’t see how Liverpool would have planned on having both Ings and Lambert in the squad, especially with Origi back from loan. But he is still there. So, that’s another 45K for four weeks — that’s £180,000 in dead money and counting.
In total, Liverpool’s strategy of getting strikers in before moving on the unwanted players has cost £500,000, and will increase by £185,000 per week until the end of the window. And this is just the strikers, remember. They rival pre-sales Spurs in the deadwood stakes.
What Liverpool are also doing is running the risk of being “stuck” with one of these unwanted players, in particular Balotelli, who appears to have few takers. If he is still there once Jim White has packed up and gone home on September 1, he would have cost £480,000 since Benteke came in six weeks prior. Liverpool would then be on the hook for another 18 weeks until the January window opens. That is £1.44 million. If they can’t get rid of him until next summer, that is £3.52 million. Or to put it another way, ouch.
If they get stuck with Borini, they would have paid him £480,000 during the summer transfer window. For the next 18 weeks while they window is shut, they would be paying a further £1.08 million. Again, ouch.
If they are forced to send either of them out on loan, they will likely be picking up a large portion of the very high wages — I can’t see an Italian club paying either of their wages in full.
Meanwhile, for Spurs, if they really have delayed signing a striker such as Berahino until they’ve unloaded Adebayor’s wages, what is the saving? Let’s say Berahino gets the same wage as Kane, a reported £35,000 per week, and he’d been snapped up on July 1. That would have been an additional £140,000 by July 28. I assume Spurs have been trying their hardest to get Adebayor out of the club from the moment the window opened. Depressingly for Spurs, at 100K per week, he has pocketed £400,000 from the club this summer.
To me, the deal for Berahino should have gone ahead earlier, as it is clear that Adebayor was never going to play for Spurs again. It is similar to the fact Liverpool had no choice but to bring Ings in when they did, and then try and get the best deal for Borini possible.
Roberto Soldado surely remains a serviceable striker, so you can understand why the club wants his salary accounted for before bringing in a replacement. This makes the decision to leave him off the MLS roster curious, to say the least. If we’re paying the guy, let’s at least use him to give Kane a breather.
I appreciate this is a simplistic way of looking at things. There are all sorts of other factors in transfers — opportunity cost, shifting values in what is a very fluid market, injury, player personalities. This is more a device to show the divergent strategies.
But I feel it is instructive as it shows how quickly players wages start to add up, the risk that comes with being stuck with a player you don’t need, and also the fact that, while we are talking big numbers, a few weeks wages is a small percentage of the vast revenues of clubs like Spurs and Liverpool. Liverpool had annual revenue of £256 million at last count, Spurs £181 million.
Liverpool’s owners are prepared to take a risk and spend — that is their perogative. But they are really leaking money at the moment, and that ultimately comes either from funds that could be used better for the team to compete, or at the expense of patience and goodwill from the financial backers.
Spurs are saving to build a new stadium, and must get the most out of every penny if they want to challenge clubs that generate far more money for a place in the Top 4. So you can understand why Daniel Levy keeps a vice-like grip on Spurs spending, and I trust that he knows the transfer market as just about anyone else out there having been engaged in it for many years and having bought and sold around £1 billion in players as Spurs chairman.
However, I really feel, when it comes to signing young players on relatively cheap contracts, the risk of taking on additional wages isn’t huge and shouldn’t deter Spurs from moving relatively early. Now how about getting that bid in for Berahino, finally?
**Update July 30: I’ve corrected a couple of silly errors in the original piece — I’d confused the opening date of the transfer window. The rest of the figures are correct.