the great baldini



Tottenham Hotspur's new Technical Director has worked his transfer magic to change Spurs into a side full of talent and promise.

Perhaps the most important signing of the summer, Franco Baldini has re-shaped the Tottenham squad and quite possibly re-shaped the future of the club.

In just a couple of short summer months, Baldini has worked behind the scenes, but tirelessly, to bring in the players the club needed to go forward with or without Gareth Bale. You feel that the money spent might have come from the latest TV deal and therefore, was regardless of anything that the sale of Bale might bring in.

Previous Technical Directors/Directors of Football at the club have not had such a dramatic effect. His vast list of contacts and his work across Europe has allowed him to draw on knowledge of players who might make a difference for Spurs. While Damien Comolli might have had a good knowledge of French football and the scouts brought in some players from closer to home, the closest to Baldini might have been Frank Arnesen had it worked out and Chelsea not have nicked him from us. Arnesen brought in some good players, but with Santini's management, he failed to coalesce the resources into anything meaningful. When Jol took over, there was little time working together before Arnesen slunk off to Stamford Bridge. However, Arnesen's reach only really extended to northern Europe, with players coming in from Holland, Belgium and Germany.

Of all the players brought in, it is perhaps ironically Bale who was the star pupil and Comolli has claimed the credit for that signing. Some of the other youngsters brought in failed to materialise into anything useful for Tottenham. Wayne Routledge, John Bostock, Mounir El Hamdouai, Jonathan Blondel, Emil Halfredsson and Andy Reid all came and failed to set the team alight.

There were some successes, in the form of Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone and Michael Dawson, for Arnesen, but perhaps his tentacles didn't reach far or deep enough to make decisive deals happen. These players were all well known and it could be clearly seen that they had futures in the game.

Added to Arnesen's dealings, it is said in some quarters that Arnesen's relationship with Santini was the reason the Frenchman left Spurs, although the story at the time was that Santini's wife was very ill back in his homeland.

And when Arnesen went and Comolli arrived, Jol was said to have a fractious relationship with the French Technical Director over transfers and who should be coming in, even though BMJ had worked the system in Holland.

Where Comolli brokered deals for Dimitar Berbatov, Didier Zokora and Jonathan Woodgate, but on the minus side there was the huge amount of money spent on Darren Bent and David Bentley, then there was Alan Hutton, as well as limited success stories in Heurelho Gomes, Roman Pavyluchenko and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Younger players brought in during Damien's time were Adel Taarabt, Giovani dos Santos, Paul-Jose M'Poku, Jon Obika and Chris Gunter, none of whom lasted that long or had much of an impact on the first team. Some others in Danny Rose and Andros Townsend are still in the first team picture, but are not regulars as yet after both being out out on loan for long spells. Modric, Kranjcar and Corluka all came in as Croatian internationals, all hard working and did well for the club, but Modric was the jewel amongst the three of them.

Comolli was forced out before Harry Redknapp arrived, with the current QPR manager not wishing to work with a Director of Football and it worked for a while, with the scouting network and Tim Sherwood as Development Team manager. Players who came in were well known to Redknapp through his contact in opposition sides and he did get the best out of some of them in their later career years. But such a scheme would not last in the long run, as Harry's frustration with foreign players (and some English ones, like Bent's header that Sandra could have scored) would lead to Tottenham having an English spine to the team which might not have proved strong enough o push the club further forward.

Much has been said recently about Baldini's dealings and how it has led to Tottenham being a prime example of how young English players are being shut out and how it will affect the England national team. But perhaps the fact that the national team continue to fail in major tournaments indicate that the English players might not be the ones to take teams to the fabled 'next level'.

Spurs did work through the English experiment and while there was a degree of success, some players were more successful than others, meaning that players from the continent had to come in to boost the side. Kaboul was re-signed and his lack of impact the first time, became a more solid contribution under Harry, but a known quantity who would give him what he wanted. Kyles Walker and Naughton were bought with the future in mind and were a success for the club, as other old reliables such as Crouch, Gallas and the second comings for Defoe and Keane. Many of these deal were done by chairman Daniel Levy, as he became known as the king of the last minute of deadline day. While Rafael van der Vaart and Sandro came in during Redknapp's watch, you can't help but feel that Levy's fingers were all over these deals too good to be missed and they were both good signings for Spurs.

Once Harry went and Andre Villas-Boas came in, there was always the inclination to return to the European structure with a Technical Director in place to do the transfer business with AVB allowed to concentrate on team matters.

Interestingly, the article over the weekend stating that the plans were hatched in the Caribbean this summer, when Spurs played there, was a move that involved Joe Lewis, the club's owner. This makes me think that the idea to spending a lot of money on players this transfer window might have not been dependent on Bale leaving for Real Madrid.

It was probably at this meeting that AVB spelled out the desire for Franco Baldini to spearhead the moves for players to be brought in. And with a few days left before the window closes, those who have come in through it are generally ones who have a good few years ahead of them and a few years experience behind them already.

While Tottenham missed out on Willian, the options available are expansive and the flexibility of the players signed allow their versatility to be used in inter-changing positions for specific games or within games themselves.

Baldini has been a major mover in this sea change at the club. Working all over Europe to bring in the players who can make Tottenham a force to be reckoned with, he will get a deserved rest once the transfer window closes and then it is down to AVB to use the resources available to him to shape a side capable of challenging and winning things.

But Franco has been a prime mover in bringing in more players since the year that Santini took over and we had almost a whole new team in the first game of that season. The difference in quality in the players that arrived in the summer of 2004 and those coming in this summer might make all the difference to pushing the team further up the league and into Europe and his work is not done yet !!

The Funky Phantom

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