|It was the moment that
Tottenham Hotspur got the feeling the Sergei Rebrov deal would go
through. There was still a lot of hard negotiating to be done and
the Dynamo Kiev hierarchy were holding out for a £12 million transfer
But what about the dodgy knee? The question was concerning everyone and
the player himself had even spoken of his fears that an injury suffered
years before would return to plague him. Could that be happening on the
verge of his multi-million move to north London?
Spurs, not surprisingly given their recent problems with injuries to key
players and the collapse of the John Hartson transfer, were anxious.
And, of course,
there was Ruud van Nistelrooy, whose £18m move to Manchester United
collapsed because of a similar injury.
So when Jonathan Barnett, the football agent at the centre of the deal,
arrived in Kiev, he needed to know that state of the troublesome joint.
To counter any foreseeable problems, Barnett requested and was shown,
the player's full medical history which was kept at a hotel complex near
the club's training headquarters. Unlike English clubs, Kiev's
players are given medicals virtually on a daily basis and their weight
and general health monitored constantly.
Barnett said: "I saw his knee was 100 per cent perfect for myself.
At Kiev they basically get a medical every day because they are very
into monitoring the players' well-being.
"They can tell you at any stage what his pulse rate is and how much
he weighs because they are weighed before and after every training
session. I was very careful to have a look at his medical records and as
soon as I saw them, I knew there would not be a hitch from that point of
As Standard Sport exclusively revealed in March, George Graham had
identified Rebrov as his main summer target when he watched Kiev's
Champions League game against Rosenborg. The club's Director of
Football, David Pleat, then began the process of bringing the striker to
White Hart Lane. But it wasn't until the end of April, after
receiving encouragement from the Ukraine, that Pleat and Barnett flew to
Kiev to meet officials from the club.
In the meantime Barnett had been working to establish whether or not
Kiev were genuinely interested in selling the player.
"I received a positive response from them but people have a
misconception about Kiev being a selling club," he said. "They
have sold only four or five players in the last five years and are a
"The players are paid very well and the training facilities are
just as good as any of the top clubs in England. They even have a hotel
where the players can stay during the week while they are training. The
first hurdle was persuading them to sell for the right price."
Barnett and Pleat landed in Kiev for two days of talks with club
officials. Over lunch and dinner on the first day, the discussions were
amicable and forthcoming until the conversation drifted on to the
subject of the price. Tottenham's £10m offer was, as it turned
out, well below Kiev's valuation of a player who had become a hero for
his club and country.
Barnett said: "Things went well while we were out there but the
sticking point was £12m. They would not budge from that but they did
allow us to speak to the player. That was a crucial factor because
Rebrov, who can speak fluent English, is articulate, very intelligent
and wanted to come to England.
"Despite apparent interest from clubs in Europe, Rebrov was
impressed that Spurs had made the effort to fly to Kiev to sound him out
and, more importantly, he got on with Pleat. Without David's
enthusiasm and involvement, I doubt the deal would have gone through.
Furthermore, when we went back to the club before flying home, the Kiev
president told us that he would do everything he could to help Rebrov
get his wish to go to Spurs, because the player had been so loyal."
Barnett and Pleat flew back into London to begin the process of
persuading Spurs chairman Sir Alan Sugar that the Rebrov deal was there
for the taking, but an increase in the price would almost certainly have
to be considered. Sugar was enthusiastic about the prospect of
signing the striker but not so happy about the £12m Kiev were
demanding. The renegotiation process began 24 hours after the pair
returned home. That involved numerous faxes to Kiev over a period
of days and eventually, after endless hours of communications, the deal
was concluded by way of a compromise.
Barnett said: "I put it down
to good negotiation and a lot of goodwill from the player. In the end,
the price was settled at £11m and all that was left was for the player
to come to England for a medical."
That happened on Monday when Rebrov flew to London for further talks
over his personal terms but he was not a Spurs player officially until
Kiev sent a final fax in the evening. That cleared the way for
Rebrov to sign after passing his medical on Tuesday.