Daniel Levy is the man who could really give weight to the English disdain for the post of director of football. Who needs the extra body in the boardroom when you have a dynamic chairman who has a genuine recruitment strategy, barters hard and goes out and gets players that the coach wants and who retain a sell-on value?
He didn’t get it all his own way in this window. Yet Tottenham fans shouldn’t blame Levy – and he shouldn’t blame himself – too much for failing to seal the prospective signing of Porto’s João Moutinho, which would have been the standout deal of transfer deadline day. Instead, Porto simply proved yet again that they’re the ultimate transfer market hustlers.
Spurs’ window dealings could yet be seen as a success; doubling their money on the departing Luka Modric as well as nailing two seasoned internationals in Hugo Lloris and Clint Dempsey for below market value. Levy managed to turn the screw on sellers Lyon and Fulham respectively – the French club’s notoriously hard-nosed president Jean-Michel Aulas said he’d “never known anything like it in my 25 years in football” – but the Spurs Chairman was never likely to get change out of Porto on the window’s final day.
The Moutinho situation was a very particular one; both Porto president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa and the player himself were well aware of what a prime commodity the Portugal midfielder was in this case. Seeing Moutinho’s reprising of the role of technical and tactical conductor that he performed for him at the Dragao, André Villas-Boas had his heart set on him as the key piece of his White Hart Lane jigsaw. Hence club and player could ‘agree’ terms, and then hike their demands.
So, while all manner of consternation was breaking out in London on Friday afternoon, Moutinho boarded a flight to the Algarve for Saturday’s game with Olhanense with his best poker face on. Porto, of course, didn’t bat a collective eyelid. They had no pressing need to sell. Going into the negotiations for Moutinho, the Portuguese champions had already trousered €22m (£17.5m) this summer from player sales without losing any of their big guns – the highly-bankable Moutinho, James Rodriguez and Fernando are all still Porto players.
At that point, they still had Hulk too. He scored in a 3-2 win on Saturday, but while he spoke of “winning a third successive title here” after the game, Pinto da Costa had the still-open Russian transfer window in mind – just as he had when negotiating the Moutinho deal. Following Monday night’s sale of €60m (£47.5m) Hulk to Zenit St Petersburg, Porto have now raked in around €450m (£356m) in player sales since José Mourinho led the club to the 2004 Champions League. Pinto da Costa always seems one step ahead.
So if Levy can be blamed for anything, it’s for letting himself be cornered by a wily competitor while the clock ticked down. Tottenham’s misery might have been compounded by Zenit snatching away Moutinho before Thursday’s Russian transfer deadline, but their signing of Benfica’s Axel Witsel instead means we could well be entertained by Levy and Pinto da Costa locking horns again in January.