Update: Ferguson says he never spoke to the press about Berbatov.
Tottenham Hotspur have every right to be mad.
Here’s a club dead-set on playing in the Champions League – they’ve brought in one of the best managers in contemporary football, they have brought in some of the brightest young talent in Europe (Bale, Gunter, Modric, Dos Santos and Bostock – just to name a few), they have an excellent central defensive pairing in King and Woodgate and one of the best strike partnerships in England in Keane and Berbatov.
This was supposed to be the season Tottenham finally broke the shackles and made it to the Champions League. This was supposed to be the year Spurs would finally get results to match their ambitions and more importantly, the players would fulfill their massive untapped potential. This was going to be Spurs’ season.
Except that the scum from Manchester and the scum from Liverpool have managed to tap up the best Tottenham strikeforce in the last decade and stolen the keys to Champions League qualification right of Tottenham’s hands.
As Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy eloquently puts it:
“The behaviour of both clubs has been disgraceful. We told both clubs very early on that we had no interest in selling Robbie or Dimitar, respectively, and that they should refrain from pursuing the player.
Both clubs arrogantly chose to ignore this request and we now have evidence that both clubs have systematically been working to prise the players away from us, outside of PL rules of conduct.”
The Ronaldo-Madrid and Gerrard-Chelsea sagas are documented proof of the disgust the two clubs have shown at their own players being tapped up. And Spurs are legally correct – Manchester United and Liverpool have violated Premier League rule K8 by publicly commenting on their pursuit of Berbatov and Keane.
But in their haste to save face, Tottenham chose to disregard their own hypocrisy in such matters.
Here’s a club who tapped up Juande Ramos just last year. A club who had talked to John Bostock before making their offer for him (if it’s a matter of principle then it’s a valid claim – especially since Tottenham have also complained about their players being tapped up). A club who made the bungle of the season in the way they handled Martin Jol last year (again, if we talk about integrity, Tottenham’s treatment of Martin Jol was hardly above the board).
A club whose holier-than-thou attitude neatly sidesteps the fact that the faxed offers between clubs are mere formalities and that unofficial contact between players, their agents and interested clubs almost always takes place.
While Fergie and Benitez are wrong – by Premier League rules – to comment on players registered with other clubs, Tottenham’s hypocrisy in this situation is the classic example of a club being unable to play with fire. If Spurs want success, they should hang on to Keane and Berbatov and get Ramos to set them straight. If they can’t do that, they should sell and get on with it.
The bottom line is – Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov no longer believe that they will taste Champions League football with Tottenham. It’s the promise that brought Berbatov to White Hart Lane, and it’s the promise that’s kept Keane at Spurs. For all the money being spent, the new manager and bullish statements being made, the strikers don’t believe in the club’s chances.
Daniel Levy (and for that matter, Ferguson) can complain all he wants. Players will leave if they believe their own interests are better served elsewhere. It’s the club’s job and the manager’s job to show them otherwise, and in that respect Tottenham have failed with Berbatov and Keane just as United have failed with Ronaldo.