How Spurs finally got 11m hitman Rebrov

by Adrian Curtis
(London Evening Standard - 19.5.2000)

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 fee.

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 several 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 view."

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 rich club.

"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.

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