Slot machinations mean Spurs’ search for the right manager drags on | Tottenham Hotspur

4 min read

There are offers – in football as in life – and there are offers – the kind that, as they like to say in the gangster movies, people cannot refuse. Tottenham were interested in making Arne Slot from Feyenoord their next manager and they made a few moves via their middle men and women, always confident that if it came down to personal terms, it would not be a problem.

Because they are Spurs, one of highest-revenue-generating clubs in England and, therefore, the world. And Feyenoord are Feyenoord – from the altogether smaller pond of the Eredivisie. Spurs can blow them out of the water on salaries.

They can do likewise on transfer fees and yet there seems to be one rule for clubs when they buy, say, a centre-half or midfielder and another when they have to pay to recruit a manager. Which is strange given how fundamental the latter is to absolutely everything.

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Spurs have completed or agreed deals of more than £40m for a few players since last summer alone – Cristian Romero, Richarlison, Pedro Porro – but when it came to Slot, they would not go anywhere near that. No club would.

Feyenoord were fortified by the absence of a release clause in their man’s contract this summer. They have not wanted to lose him and they felt empowered to say no to Spurs or, at least, place a very expensive price on Slot’s head.

How expensive is unclear, beyond it being less than a fee for what most Premier League fans would consider a run-of-the-mill player, but the bottom line is that it added up to impasse. So there was Slot on Thursday morning firing off a text message to a group of trusted Dutch journalists, saying that, honestly, the talks his agent had enjoyed on Wednesday with Feyenoord were only to do with his contract extension.

Which brings us back to offers. The Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, could have made one that forced Feyenoord to the table. It is highly likely that he will spend more on a player or players this summer. He had been led to believe that Slot was ready to do more than consider a switch to north London. But Levy was not prepared to go all out for him on the compensation package to Feyenoord.

Have Spurs felt messed around by Feyenoord in terms of shifting parameters? Probably, however ironic that sounds. Have they been manipulated when it comes to the media narrative? Surely, yes. In the Netherlands on Wednesday, there had not been too many people who expected Slot to stay. When the news broke, there was surprise. It was hailed as a victory for Feyenoord, another one after their domestic title triumph. The club can look forward with optimism, especially to their Champions League campaign.

Supporters are frustrated with Daniel Levy after a disappointing Tottenham season. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

For Levy, it is on to the next one. Some deals do not make sense in terms of the feel of them, the good faith. And/or the numbers. So not this guy from this club in this division. No problem. Except that in broader terms, it does feel like a problem.

Levy is not just looking for a manager, somebody to reboot the club after a disastrous season. He is battling the ghosts of his most recent appointments, particularly the one from when he last engaged in an end-of-season drive. That was 2021 when it took him 72 days to alight upon Nuno Espírito Santo after the dismissal of José Mourinho. Nuno had been out of work for five weeks or so when he accepted the job. It did not work out for him.

The chairman parted company with Antonio Conte on 26 March so it is 60 days and counting, and people are counting, fearful that there could be a parallel with the long summer of Nuno. The impression nags a little harder when candidates are ruled out. Vincent Kompany has committed to a new contract at Burnley; Spurs have insisted that Julian Nagelsmann is not an option for them; now Slot.

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It seems that other managers could be out of reach, such as Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi. Rúben Amorim has a €15m (£13m) buyout clause in his Sporting contract this summer and sources at the club expect him to stay, which has been the case for a while. Luis Enrique has been out of work since his departure from the Spain job on 8 December. Surely if Spurs had really wanted him, they would have done a deal by now?

Burned by their experiences two years ago, the club have maintained that they have no No 1 target, merely a list to work through. But what does it say to the field as the days tick by and progress feels elusive?

Harry Kane on the ground against Milan in March
Harry Kane’s future remains uncertain with Manchester United among potential suitors. Photograph: James Gill/Danehouse/Getty Images

Spurs’s wider issues are well documented and the lack of top- or mid-level European football next season is arguably the least of them. It will be the bottom rung, of the Europa Conference League, at best (if that is the right word) – pending results on the final day of the league campaign on Sunday.

Levy needs a sporting director after the resignation of Fabio Paratici on 21 April; ideally before he appoints the manager. Harry Kane’s future is the subject of huge uncertainty. Hugo Lloris must be replaced. How much money is left after last summer’s splurge, after the £150m equity injection by the owner, Enic? A section of the fanbase is in open revolt, “Levy Out” their demand.

There is frustration at the club that Slot might have played them to improve his situation. Ditto Kompany. Then again, these kind of optics do not seem to cling to operations known for their slickness.