It may grieve those of a Tottenham Hotspur disposition to know it, but there is one league in which their team are really flying.
Today the club reach their highest position in the Deloitte Football Money League of the world’s biggest-earning football clubs, with £443million income taking them up to eighth, above Chelsea and Arsenal. No London club is raking in more.
That is what reaching a Champions League final does for you. Playing in last June’s showpiece earned the club around £88m including prize and TV money: a springboard, we thought at the time, to a bold summer in which Mauricio Pochettino would be told to spend at last and cement the club’s status as one of the best clubs in Europe. Audere est Facere — ‘To Dare is to Do’ — as the Spurs motto goes.
Harry Kane walks past the Champions League trophy after losing to Liverpool last summer
It did not happen, of course. ‘To dare is too dear’ is one of the social media jokes about Spurs and in the 227 days since that final against Liverpool, the club have headed into a vortex of chaos.
The sacking of Pochettino followed a summer which confirmed that when it comes to backing a brilliant manager with players to take the next step, Tottenham are light years behind the team which beat them in Madrid.
Since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival on Merseyside, Liverpool have spent £150m more than Tottenham on players. The manner of defeat by the league leaders on Saturday — first-half possession 27 per cent, overall possession 33 per cent — revealed the shocking consequences, a mere two years after Pochettino’s Spurs annihilated Liverpool 4-1 at Wembley.
When Klopp’s side lost the 2018 Champions League final to Real Madrid in Kiev, they signed Alisson and Fabinho, pillars of a better, stronger unit.
Spurs have headed into a vortex of chaos in the 227 days since the final defeat in Madrid
When Tottenham lost the 2019 final, they bought two teenagers, struck a loan deal for Giovani Lo Celso and signed Tanguy Ndombele, who has not played more than three straight matches.
There are mitigating circumstances for Leicester having outspent Spurs every summer since the Foxes won the title in 2016 and West Ham shelling out more than Spurs in the last five years.
The project management of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been complicated and costs have soared.
Though the club insist the transfer budget comes from a different pot, there will always be consequences. Spurs have also made moves to break through the pay ceiling which had made them vulnerable to predators in the transfer market. Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli went beyond the £100,000-a-week mark.
The chasm between Liverpool and Tottenham has widened since the European Cup final
But salaries like that are an anachronism in the world of football powerhouses Spurs want to occupy. Chairman Daniel Levy has been left behind, deluded by the notion that not buying a player for 12 months in 2018 and 2019 somehow made the club cuter and more progressive than all the rest.
Some of the young players Spurs invested their hope in — Alli, Danny Rose and Eric Dier — have gone backwards. Others have not kicked on. Yet Levy seems the last man in north London to acknowledge the fact.
Clubs are being advised that 22-year-old Kyle Walker-Peters is available for £12m. None of them acknowledge he is worth remotely near that value.
There is the same lack of realism about the players Spurs want to bring in. Discussions over AC Milan forward Krzysztof Piatek have gravitated to the usual Levy effort to reach a bargain bucket compromise, with loan fees and swapped players thrown in to make the sums add up to £28m.
There is talk of Victor Wanyama being a makeweight but no one is convinced of his long-term fitness and frankly the Italians do not seem interested.
Daniel Levy is still trying to cut corners by refusing to pay for top players in the transfer market
In many respects, the complicated deal for Benfica’s Gedson Fernandes has shown how the paths of Spurs and Liverpool have diverged. A six-month fee up front for what will be an 18-month loan deal for a player who is no world beater. Not a player Klopp would be setting his sights on.
It is not as if Spurs lack in-house assets when it comes to assessing who to buy. Chief scout Steve Hitchen is a gem, who honed his skills scouting for Liverpool, among other clubs, and knows the market well. But insight counts for less when a club are not willing to pay the asking price.
Getting players through the door to view the training ground — seen at Spurs as a big part of the hard sell — is never easy when others are offering more wages and a bigger fee. It is even harder to attract them now that Pochettino, a big part of the draw in recent years, is no longer around.
Liverpool read the transfer market better. Under a sporting director, Michael Edwards, who was hired as an analyst from Tottenham in 2011, they have known when to stick to the Fenway Sports Group’s Moneyball principles and when to abandon them and spend big on players like Alisson and Virgil van Dijk.
Pochettino’s exasperation with this made his future at Spurs untenable by the end, when he hinted at internal strife, though Levy’s conviction Jose Mourinho would somehow turn the club into winners is now being revealed for the folly it always was.
Sportsmail understands some Spurs players are not inspired by new manager Jose Mourinho
Gradually, the Mourinho negativity is re-materialising. He has said that Moussa Sissoko lacks the discipline to play in central midfield, that Ryan Sessegnon lacks physicality, that Ndombele is injury-prone and that Tottenham cannot operate as he wants with Kane injured. Though that did not stop them reaching the Champions League final.
Sportsmail understands some of his players are not all that convinced by him, either. There is uncertainty about aspects of his tactical disciplines and practices, including having one full back operating deep and one midfielder covering, to prevent the side being exposed. Some players do not feel they have the same freedom to play as under Pochettino.
The defeat by Liverpool leaves Spurs nine point adrift of the top four. Although there are enough games to change that picture, the prospects seem remote, with Kane out, Jan Vertonghen a shadow of his former self and Mourinho very much his former self.
Jonathan Woodgate gets the vital touch as Spurs beat Chelsea to win the League Cup in 2008
Suddenly, Tottenham’s FA Cup third-round replay at home to Middlesbrough tonight assumes importance, as a first staging post on the way to silverware which would provide a vindication of sorts for Levy. But even that success could not obscure that Spurs, having reached a final beyond the dreams of most clubs, have thrown so much away.
Since the ENIC investment group majority owned by Joe Lewis bought the club in 2001, Spurs have won one trophy: the 2008 League Cup triumph so deep in the mists of time that the current Middlesbrough manager, Jonathan Woodgate, scored the winner. The ensuing trophyless years are Spurs’ longest period without silverware in the post-war era.
Mourinho hinted on Monday that Kane may not play again this season and remarked that it had been downhill since his first game in charge at West Ham.
The Deloitte League really does add up to nothing.