London News & Search
This is such a crucial time for Tottenham’s future and the direction they want to go in after taking such huge strides over the past couple of seasons.
Their fans, and undoubtedly their players too, just want to feel like they are still moving forwards after finishing third, then second in the Premier League.
The danger is not that they risk standing still – more that they could fall behind if they don’t strengthen properly now or, even worse, keep this group of players together.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy holds the key to that with who they sign and the club’s pay structure going forward.
He has a reputation for being a pretty vicious negotiator but when I played for Spurs I sat down with him personally on several occasions to speak about wages and we had a really good relationship.
There were times when I was offered an extended and improved contract and I bit his hand off, and others when I would say I did not think it was the right time to sign.
Daniel would say something like: ‘I fully respect that, but we will sit down again.’
He was always brilliant with me. Even when I ruptured my Achilles in 2011 while I was on loan at Aston Villa, one of the first things that came down the chain to me was, ‘Jermaine, you will be back – and here is an extra year’, which was great.
So from my point of view, he always treated me with respect and treated me well.
He has definitely got that humane side to him and the reputation he seems to have of being a horrible or tight man is just plain wrong.
Spurs no longer have to see their best players leave
From my experience of Levy, he will have a good relationship with the current Spurs players too – despite the issues that Spurs left-back Danny Rose commented on last week.
Of course Levy is shrewd, though. He has always been clever – especially with the way he ties young players down to long deals but with the incentive to improve.
When I joined from Newcastle, aged 22, I must have signed a new contract every year for four or five seasons.
Dele Alli has done something similar recently, signing three new deals in the space of 16 months to tie him to the club until 2022.
I was always happy at Spurs so it was never an issue for me but, without really knowing it, I got to a point where I was about 26 or 27 – the age Rose is now – where I realised that even if I did want to leave it was too late.
I could not renegotiate because I had too many years left on my contract, which took me up to the age of 30 or 31, at which point you are struggling to land a big deal anyway.
As a model for Tottenham, it worked in the same way it does today – but we saw some of our best players leave, which is something that no longer has to happen.
We reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2011 with genuine stars like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric in the team, but we were never as consistent as this Spurs side who are trying to achieve bigger things than we did in the Premier League.
A strange and stressful week for Spurs
It has been a very strange and probably quite stressful week for everyone at Tottenham despite their win over Newcastle on Sunday.
Off the back of Rose’s comments about the club’s wages and lack of activity in the transfer market, there has been a lot of discussion about the club’s ambition, or the perceived lack of it.
It appears things are now happening on the transfer front, with Ajax’s Davinson Sanchez and Everton’s Ross Barkley both in Spurs’ sights.
Only Levy knows why he always does business so late – even my transfer to Spurs from Newcastle was done on the last day of the window in August 2005.
Looking at that approach as a pundit rather than a player, it does not help manager Mauricio Pochettino much.
Manchester United did not get their deal for Nemanja Matic done particularly early, but he was still able to play for them on their summer tour and hit the ground running at the start of the season.
You look at the players Spurs are going for and Sanchez would be new to England, while Barkley did not feature in Everton’s pre-season at all and has picked up a hamstring injury this week.
Realistically, for different reasons, you are not going to get the best out of either of them until October, at the earliest.
But from my point of view, there has never been a problem with their transfer policy in general. It has always been very well thought out when it comes to bringing players into the club, because in terms of the ability, age and price of their signings, they often seem to get that right.
My issue is more about how they handle the players they already have. They need to treat their contracts with just as much importance as they do the transfer market itself.
That is not happening at the moment. Tottenham are in the Champions League for a second straight season and are trying to establish themselves in that competition but, when it comes to wages, it feels like their level is more of a club challenging for a Europa League place.
They have not won anything yet – and if you want to go and try to take on the big boys and win trophies, then you have got to put your hand in your pockets.
Time to take Tottenham pay structure to the next level
I spoke about Tottenham’s wages and why they should pay more on Match of the Day 2 on Sunday – and I want to reiterate that they do not have greedy players on their books.
Indeed, some of them may well be very happy with their contracts but, knowing the club and their wage levels, I still think there is a core of that squad – and not just Rose – who will think the situation needs addressing just so they are getting what they are worth.
Spurs’ marquee players like Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris are probably on about £100,000 per week, and for the rest I expect the cap is about £60,000.
To keep everyone happy you would not have to change the pay structure dramatically, just take it to another level for everyone to reflect the progress the team has made on the pitch.
I am not saying pay anyone £300,000 per week, or even £200,000 – but Spurs could take their wages-revenue ratio up a notch without going crazy and remain a well-run club.
If they do that, everything is going to go a lot more smoothly for them in the next year or two as they move to their new stadium, while trying to maintain the momentum they have at the moment.
Keeping their best players – and signing new ones
Spurs are running the risk of losing Belgium centre-half Toby Alderweireld, who has got two years left on his contract and is probably on about £50,000 a week.
If they could re-sign him this summer, and have him happy and on a long-term contract, that is as good a signing as they could make – but they are going to have to give him a big pay increase for that to happen.
As things stand, he has not signed and is not going to be in any rush to change that because the closer he gets to the end of his deal, the more power he will have. Every top club in the world will be circling around him.
If Alderweireld leaves, then Spurs are going to have to go and buy someone who they have to try to build up again to be at his level. For me, that is a backwards step.
Paying more would have similar benefits when it comes to signing players too.
At present, you kind of know that Spurs are never going to make a really huge signing, because of their wage structure.
Say if Real Madrid made Isco available. They would have to pay upwards of £50m for him for starters but, even if Tottenham did do that, he would not go there for £100,000 a week. Coming from Real, he is going to want close to double that.
So, at the moment, they are not even in contention to sign that calibre of player. They cannot even consider it.
Yes, the fact their current strongest XI is so good is one reason it is hard for them to sign players that will improve their team, but their pay structure is part of the problem too.
Jermaine Jenas was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
London News & Search