IAN LADYMAN: Daniel Levy has been fair game for cheap gags... but he's laughing at the rest of us now

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During Covid times when the Premier League’s chief executives and chairmen used to meet remotely via Zoom to talk about the many problems associated with lockdown and football behind closed doors, there was a running joke between a couple of them.

‘When stadiums were slowly opening up with reduced capacities we had to decide who to allocate tickets to first,’ one executive told me.

‘We talked about key workers and things like that. And the gag was that Daniel Levy would welcome his corporates back before anyone else.’

And that’s the thing about Levy. He’s fair game for those who like to suggest he cares only about money, that he doesn’t have a heart that beats like a football fan, that to him it’s always been about the business and not the glory. The Tottenham chairman has been an easy target for the cheap gags and the criticism firstly because he never answers back and secondly because some of it has always been true.

For Levy has always run his football club like a business. He hasn’t thrown money around on players. He hasn’t sought popularity with his supporters by wildly signing big names and he hasn’t looked to keep his managers happy by giving him free reign every time a transfer window opened.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has been mocked for years for not throwing money at players

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has been mocked for years for not throwing money at players

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has been mocked for years for not throwing money at players

Tottenham are now a joy to watch on the pitch, and Levy's decision are starting to pay off

Tottenham are now a joy to watch on the pitch, and Levy's decision are starting to pay off

Mail Sport columnist Ian Ladyman believes Levy is now laughing at those that have questioned him over the years

Mail Sport columnist Ian Ladyman believes Levy is now laughing at those that have questioned him over the years

And now we are here. January 2024. The transfer window that saw some chickens come home to roost for Premier League football clubs. A time when even clubs like Manchester United cannot spend because of the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules and because of mistakes and poor judgements made in the past. When an outfit like Chelsea wonders to itself just how so much money was spent on so little of worth.

Yes, January 2024. The window when all of a sudden it looks as though Levy and Tottenham may have known what they were doing all along.

Tottenham are fourth in the Premier League. They have a bright manager in Ange Postecoglou and a promising team that looks set for a shoot-out for the fourth Champions League spot with Aston Villa. That’s if they don’t also catch rivals Arsenal in third.

And off the field, Tottenham are making money like never before. Levy gambled big when he built the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the club will be paying back the loan for years to come. 

But that stadium is now also acting like a giant cash machine for Tottenham. Premier League football. NFL games. Big name concerts. Sophisticated merchandising outlets and food and drink concessions. Levy must hear the tills ringing every time he wakes up and now we learn the £549m in revenue the club pulled in for the year 2022/23 was the most of any club in London. 

Tottenham are thriving now, with their money generating revenue from hosting major events including NFL matches

Tottenham are thriving now, with their money generating revenue from hosting major events including NFL matches

On the pitch, the team are playing exciting football under Ange Postecoglou

On the pitch, the team are playing exciting football under Ange Postecoglou

And, according to industry experts such as the respected Kieran Maguire, Tottenham’s matchday revenues may well top United’s if they do indeed play in the Champions League next season.

‘The results from Spurs are a vindication of the long-term strategy that’s been employed by Levy,’ Maguire told Football Insider.

‘He has grown the club’s ability to be multifunctional and own a very attractive piece of real estate in the form of the new stadium.

‘That has paid off. Spurs have gone from having £35million a year in matchday earnings to well over £100million.

‘That will improve their ability to compete in the transfer market and in terms of player wages.’

Levy-sceptics – and there are thousands of them within the Spurs fanbase – will point to the fact their club hasn’t won a trophy since 2008. They want silverware rather than silver coins. They won’t win one this year either. Postecoglou’s team have made unexpected progress in the league but flunked in both domestic cups.

So that quest will go on. But the fact is Levy has positioned himself and his football club perfectly in an age when rivals are being squeezed by the rules on spending. Tottenham spent well on players last summer as Postecoglou built a new team in anticipation of Harry Kane’s departure and were out of the blocks at the start of this month to bring in Timo Werner on loan from RB Leipzig and centre back Radu Dragusin for £20m from Genoa.

Tottenham have been able to build a new team since Harry Kane's exit, with Radu Dragusin arriving from Genoa

Tottenham have been able to build a new team since Harry Kane's exit, with Radu Dragusin arriving from Genoa

Timo Werner has also come in on loan from RB Leipzig and made a positive impact

Timo Werner has also come in on loan from RB Leipzig and made a positive impact

Werner is one of many cast-offs from Chelsea’s years of boom and bust. On the King’s Road, the recent trick has been to spread the cost of transfers over long contracts. 

It’s an old trick employed by everyone but Chelsea have taken it to the next level. They have, by all accounts, 13 players – including six signed last summer - whose contracts don’t expire until the next decade. In layman’s terms, this is called kicking the can down the road.

Chelsea may well win something this season. They are in the Carabao Cup Final against Liverpool. Levy and Postecoglou have yet to cross that bridge and at some point the Spurs chairman will face that old and familiar dilemma of whether to put his hand deeper in to his pocket than feels comfortable. It will be a key moment both in terms of his relationship with Postecoglou and his club’s long term future.

But have a look at the way Chelsea, and indeed Manchester United, are set up for the future and then take a look at Tottenham. Who would you rather be?

The rise of football violence in England should not be overlooked. If you don’t think it’s there then you aren’t looking properly. 

But spare me the nonsense about a return to the 1980s. Back then my dad stopped taking me to games for a while after they started throwing darts at each other on the terraces at Bolton Wanderers. 

This is worrying. But it’s not that.

The rise in football violence is worrying but it's not as bad as it was in the 1980s

The rise in football violence is worrying but it's not as bad as it was in the 1980s

You can tell much about a football team by what they do when they don’t have the ball and this is what makes me increasingly worried about Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea.

They were awful in that regard when I saw them lose at Manchester United earlier in the winter and arguably even worse in going down at Liverpool this week. Weak, limp and unwilling or unable to give that extra piece of themselves when required.

Chelsea don’t look remotely like a Pochettino team. They don’t look coached. They don’t look motivated. If Pochettino doesn’t get something of a tune out of them between now and May then I doubt he will see out the summer at Stamford Bridge.

The last progressive season the South American had in football was 2018/19 when he took Tottenham to a Champions League final. That was the real Pochettino and it’s pertinent to ask, five and a half years on, just what has happened to him.

Chelsea do not look like a Mauricio Pochettino team after they were thrashed by Liverpool

Chelsea do not look like a Mauricio Pochettino team after they were thrashed by Liverpool

Roberto Mancini chose to huff down the tunnel rather than watch his Saudi Arabia team lose on penalties to South Korea in the Asia Cup and watching the footage made me smile.

We in the Press pack loved Mancini when he was in charge at Manchester City more than a decade ago. He was charming, urbane, great for quotes and he won stuff, too.

But his self-regard was beyond parallel. When, for example, his players entered the dressing room after a particularly underwhelming 45 minutes against Manchester United, they waited for a rollocking only to find Mancini absent.

It was a senior player who eventually went looking for the boss, only to find him in the bathroom blow-drying his hair.

Roberto Mancini headed down the tunnel before Saudi Arabia's penalty shootout with South Korea had finished

Roberto Mancini headed down the tunnel before Saudi Arabia's penalty shootout with South Korea had finished

Conor Bradley or Trent Alexander Arnold for the right-back berth at Liverpool for the rest of the season?

If Jurgen Klopp is to take his team where he wishes them to go in four competitions between now and June, Liverpool will play 28 games.

Suffice to say there is room for them both.

Conor Bradley has been a revelation since coming into the Liverpool team and could now play alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold in the starting XI

Conor Bradley has been a revelation since coming into the Liverpool team and could now play alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold in the starting XI

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