Gareth Bale’s departure to Real Madrid may just be the last bit of action for Tottenham Hotspur in what has been a very busy transfer window for Andre Villas-Boas. A world record fee of 86 million pounds for the Welsh forward allows Tottenham to recover the money spent on the club’s summer purchases, and while Madrid will be pleased they got their man at last, Tottenham may have come out of this window a better team overall.
The numbers don’t lie, and in the midst of the Bale transfer saga, Tottenham’s numbers are looking pretty good. The club sold five players during this transfer window, giving them plenty of funds to use to bolster the squad.
On June 30, Tottenham released seven players, including William Gallas and David Bentley. On July 9, Tottenham parted ways with Nathan Byrne. Then, the club began selling players. English defender Steven Caulker was sold for £9.25 million to Cardiff City on July 31, the first sale of the season for Tottenham. Two days later, Major League Soccer fans were treated with the news that American midfielder Clint Dempsey would be returning to the league with the Seattle Sounders in a £6 million Designated Player deal.
In the following weeks, Tottenham sold a pair of fringe English internationals in Tom Huddlestone and Scott Parker, the former for £5.25 million to Hull City, the latter, for £3.5 million to Fulham. This, along with the transfer of Bale, gives Tottenham a healthy £110 million of spending money for the summer window.
However, Tottenham didn’t wait for the Bale’s transfer to go through to start making moves. On July 6, Tottenham invested £17 million in the acquisition of Brazilian defensive midfielder Paulinho, who impressed teams around the world with his performance in the 2013 Confederations Cup. Paulinho now links up with fellow Brazilian midfielder Sandro. A few weeks later, Tottenham added 24-year-old Belgian winger Nacer Chadli to the squad for £7 million. The Belgian international last played with FC Twente.
It was on August 1, however, that Tottenham made their first big splash in the transfer window, signing Valencia’s Spanish superstar, Roberto Soldado, for a hefty fee of £26 million. The forward had become a regular for the Spanish national team and with rumours of Bale’s departure increasing around this time period reinforcements up top became necessary for Tottenham. Two weeks later, Tottenham added French midfielder Etienne Capoue at £9 million from Toulouse.
Lastly, with only two days to go before the transfer window closed, Tottenham capped off their summer spending with the acquisition of Argentine forward Erik Lamela at £30 million from A.S. Roma, and also added Romanian defender Vlad Chiriches for £8.5 million from Steaua Buceresti. The final purchase of the transfer window was Christian Eriksen from Ajax, for £11.5 million. The total amount Tottenham spent prior to the Bale’s Madrid signing totalled £109 million, certainly a hefty investment for a club not know for spending like Chelsea or Manchester City.
In truth, Bale was probably on his way out around the time of Soldado’s signing. Tottenham spent more than £50 million at this time, and keeping Bale around seemed less and less likely as the days rolled by. With the signing of Lamela, Bale’s departure was almost assured. The Spurs walk away with nearly breaking even and add seven new players on the roster. Major League Soccer gained a superstar to market around, Real Madrid found another forward, and Tottenham showed off their spending muscles, breaking their own transfer record three times in one window.
Darren Bent held the previous club transfer record, when he signed for the club in 2007 for £16.5 million – Paulinho, Soldado and, now, Lamela, have all broken that record.
The numbers tell us another story, one of production and of Tottenham’s real victory in this summer transfer window. In truth, Tottenham did not lose much when Bale and Dempsey departed from the club. In Soldado, the club gained a forward who had proven himself as a goalscorer in one of the toughest leagues in the world, and Lamela, though young, isn’t an unproven commodity, either.
Last season Bale slotted home 26 goals in 44 appearances in all competitions. Dempsey managed to score 12 goals in 43 appearances, making himself a goalscoring threat with the club as well. Between the two of them, 38 goals were scored in a full season of football, a number that isn’t easy to replicate. Bale sat in third in the final tally of the league’s top scorers, behind Robin van Persie (26) and Luis Suarez (23), having scored 21 of those 26 goals in league play. Still, replacing Bale is no easy task, something Madrid identified with the exchange of a world record fee for the Welsh forward.
However, Tottenham may have come out of this without taking a hit in the goalscoring department. Soldado scored 30 goals in 46 total appearances last year with Valencia. Meanwhile, Lamela managed to score 15 goals in only 34 appearances with A.S. Roma, a total of 45 goals between the two. Now, those kinds of numbers aren’t guaranteed, due to a number of factors.
Firstly, the English Premier League is a different league than La Liga or Serie A; second, these forwards will need to adjust to a brand new cast of characters around them and may not score at a similar rate; finally, the team itself may increase the spread of goals-to-player ratio with the use of different formations than the ones Soldado or Lamela are used to. In any case, accounting for the various changes, and seeing Soldado’s goalscoring ratio already (four goals in three games thus far), it’s safe to say that on the low end, you can expect around 30 goals scored by the pair by season’s end.
Add to the fact that Lamela didn’t play a full season, and you can add another four or five goals to his tally with an additional 10 games. It’s mostly speculative at this point, as any number of injuries or in-form replacements could dispel one of the two from the starting line up. For example, Emanuel Adebayor may rediscover himself this season and manage another 20+ goal season; on the other side of the spectrum, we may see Lamela or Soldado surpass their own records and slot in many more goals than anticipated. In any case, the fact that the options are present is what’s key. Selling Bale without producing the necessary replacements would put the club in a much more dire circumstance.
Numbers are a strange barometer of success or failure. They often exaggerate performances or hide important storylines. To judge a team by the numbers is to miss the essence of the beautiful game. However, Tottenham’s summer transfer window has less to do about the sentimental value of a player like Bale and much more to do with the costs – and the benefits – of his sale.
With the season already underway, it can be a hindrance for some. Jan Vertonghen has already called for the transfer window to end before the season begins. It’s a sentiment that is, perhaps, most appropriate for Tottenham, who have spent the summer wheeling and dealing. With Bale now wearing the white shirt of Madrid, Tottenham has built a foundation for the next several years, in the hopes that one hectic window can provide the club with many season’s worth of stability.
It isn’t easy playing the transfer game, and in many ways, it seemed like Tottenham’s windfall spending was exactly that – a game. It’s the kind of transfer movement that fans of EA Sports’ FIFA franchise are used to pulling off in career mode, but it has rarely occurred in real life. It’s the stuff of fantasy football, but this year, it’s very, very real.
So, the onus is now on the new faces to step up to the plate and shine. Lamela will be an important figure in Tottenham; Paulinho needs to play up to the standards he himself set with Brazil for a spot in the World Cup; Soldado just has to keep scoring; Eriksen finally has a chance to show on a bigger stage. These players will be the headline makers at Tottenham this season, billed as the replacement of one Mr. Gareth Bale.
Tottenham won the football lottery this season; it’s up to this select seven to show their club and the fans at White Hart Lane that Bale will not be missed.