Real Madrid target is the dominant story but in Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Nacer Chadli, Tottenham have already bought well
With all the masses of column inches currently being devoted to the future of Gareth Bale it has almost gone unnoticed that Tottenham have been quietly going about the makings of a very satisfactory transfer window. Of course, just how satisfactory will be determined by whether Bale stays or goes; presumably we will learn more about Real Madrid's intentions over the coming days although as yet, while astronomical figures plus various possible player makeweights are being bandied about seemingly willy-nilly, it appears that no actual bid has been received by Spurs.
Though the general consensus is that there will inevitably be an eventual bid that's too huge to turn down, it's a big call to make for the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy. He knows that players such as Bale are rare treasures, and quite possibly irreplaceable even with (a reinvested) £100m. There are probably no more than a dozen players who can turn a game single-handed, conjure a goal out of nothing, produce moments of magic that make the difference. When you are in possession of one, you try to hang on to him as long as possible and Levy knows that without Bale Spurs' chances of gaining a Champions League spot are diminished.
The saga is likely to have ruined his holiday, which up to now had seemed well-deserved after a fine early foray in the transfer market. Boosted by the presence of the new technical director, Franco Baldini, one of the game's most respected operators, the club have spent more than £50m to push on from last season's fifth-placed finish.
The signing of the Brazilian international midfielder Paulinho has already provoked some very positive reviews from me in a previous blog – and since then the club have acted efficiently to add two new names to their attacking department.
This week Spurs smashed their transfer record by paying up the £26m release clause of Valencia's Spain international Roberto Soldado. There's little doubt that this is a big investment for a 28-year-old with very limited or no resale value but, considering the huge sums paid for international top forwards this summer, such a mega-deal now seems par for the course for a high-scoring striker from a top European league.
The deal also follows the current trend in which established (as well as challenging) top clubs opt for the finished product at premium prices, instead of the recent much-favoured approach of buying up-and-coming talents who are still some years away from their career peak. It's a symptom of today's demands for rapid success, with Champions League places so crucial to finances that missing out can see you fall behind your rivals.
It could be too that Spurs sense there's a big chance now to catch up with the top four; though Chelsea and, especially, Manchester City have predictably spent huge money already, Arsenal and Manchester United seem to be struggling to capture their targets and Levy hopes splashing the cash will give Spurs an extra edge over their rivals in red.
Certainly their latest signing should prosper in a side that tends to enjoy plenty of possession and control of the ball in their attacking third. Compared with the similarly aged Alvaro Negredo – who cost Manchester City £6m less but outscored the new Spurs man by one league goal last campaign – Soldado is quicker and more agile. While they're both aggressive and quick on the trigger inside the penalty area, Soldado, with his direct, relentless movement and pace can cause more damage on the break, whereas the left-footed Manchester City centre-forward offers more of a holding-up game.
Arguably not the most elegant front man, the former Valencia striker is always likely to go for power before delicate precision and, though he's sometimes criticised for his streaks of inconsistency, Spurs have signed a determined, strong-minded forward with plenty of personality.
I'm also intrigued to see what impact Spurs' other recent signing, the Belgium international Nacer Chadli, is likely to have on the Premier League. Many clubs – English as well as European – have been monitoring the 24-year-old at Twente over the past year, some leaving Enschede with glowing reports on an explosive winger with good technical ability, others remaining perplexed over Chadli's occasional tendency to drift in and out of games and slightly worrying recent injury record (he missed a quarter of each of the past two seasons through injuries).
A right-footed wide player who operates mainly on the left, the Belgian of Moroccan origins combines lightning pace – especially when finding space to stretch his long legs over 20-30 metres – with unpredictability in one-on-one situations and a finely calibrated shot on goal as his most eye-catching forte. Though ostensibly signed to be initially a squad player, the £7m Chadli is well-suited to André Villas-Boas's attacking schemes and provides the Portuguese head coach with another creative alternative going forward.
On a more surprising note, Spurs also parted company with their promising centre-back Steven Caulker, who joined Cardiff City in an £8m move. Already capped by England, the defender looked increasingly confident and dominant during his appearances under Villas-Boas last season and, with him 21 years old, one would have thought the academy product would play an important part over the years to come. The sale of Caulker (incidentally another fine capture by Cardiff) leaves the squad with just three out-and-out central defenders, which inevitably forces the club back on to the market in search of an upgraded replacement.
One such option may be the Romanian international Vlad Chiriches. According to reports in Romania, the Steaua Bucharest player – who enjoyed a fine Europa League campaign last season – is said to have been very close to joining Spurs before the £7m bid was turned down at the last minute by Steaua's incarcerated club boss, Gigi Becali. Perhaps not quite yet in the Gica Popescu category of cultured defenders, Chiriches does however stand out with his mobility, pace, strong personality on the pitch and ability to take the ball out of defence. His assurance on the ball is possibly one explanation why Villas-Boas was seemingly happy to consider a 23-year-old Romanian in the place of a homegrown talent.
Tor-Kristian Karlsen is a Norwegian football scout and executive, formerly the chief executive and sporting director at Monaco. He has previously worked as a scout for Grasshopper, Watford, Bayer Leverkusen, Hannover and Zenit St Petersburg and as sporting director for Fredrikstad