Pochettino waits to discover if Spurs will match his ambition
As the dust settles on Tottenham’s most sustained title challenge since the mid-1980s, manager Mauricio Pochettino is about to find out whether the club is ready to match his own burning ambitions.
Leicester will be crowned as Premier League champions in the coming days, ending Tottenham’s hopes of a first title triumph since 1961, but this should just be the beginning of this story.
In fact, Pochettino has exceeded expectations in two wonderfully productive seasons as Spurs manager, sparking speculation that he is a potential Manchester United manager in the making.
Promoting a thrilling brand of football befitting into the Tottenham traditions, Pochettino is a leader who could bring the north London club untold riches in the next few years, yet there must be a concern that the club’s notoriously frugal chairman Daniel Levy (below) is not ready to follow his manager to the promised land.
Pochettino has verbally agreed a new five-year deal to continue as Tottenham boss, but he will want assurances from Levy that his star names will not be sold if the vultures come swooping this summer.
Levy's reputation for being the most difficult chairman to negotiate with in the game has been long established, yet he is also a chairman who sells his best players when the price is right.
This is a chairman who has a record of selling star names like Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale when more ambitious clubs have come calling and there is no reason to believe he will change his ways now.
In addition, he determined to quash any suggestion that his club will join the rush to hand over huge wages to star players and therein lies the threat to Tottenham’s bright future.
No Spurs players currently earning the six figure weekly sums that have become the norm among many of their Premier League rivals, with Levy eager to ensure that prudent business approach is not altered.
A glance at the wage bills in the Premier League right now highlights an alarming statistic that could lead to the break-up of a Spurs side that look more than capable of challenging for the title again next season.
Sitting sixth in a wages table behind Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool, Tottenham’s stars are effectively cast as paupers compared to some of their less successful Premier League rivals.
Okay, a salary of £25,000-per-week can hardly be described as slave labour, but that is the current pay packet Dele Alli is taking home after he signed a new five-year contract with Tottenham in January.
It is big money for a 20-year-old, but the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea would be willing to add an extra naught to the end of that figure if they could get their hands on the brightest young talent in English football.
Therein lies Tottenham’s chief threat this summer, with Levy in control of deciding whether he is ready to change his script in a summer when a new TV contract offers Premier League club’s financial security.
Take Harry Kane’s current £50,000-a-week wage packet, which is no longer befits England’s leading striker who has scored 45 Premier League goals over the last two seasons.
If he was sold to Man Utd or Chelsea for £60m this summer, Kane (below) could expect to earn four times his current salary and even if he doesn’t want to leave Spurs, that would be tempting.
With Wayne Rooney earning £260,000-per-week at Manchester United, Eden Hazard collecting £200,000 each week from Chelsea and West Ham paying their star man Dimitri Payet half a million pound a month to wear their colours, it is clear that Spurs need to catch up quickly in the wages race.
Even little ole Crystal Palace are handing over around £100,000-a-week to have French international Yohan Cabaye in their line-up and that is more than any of the Pochettino’s players currently earn, so breaking point is fast approaching.
Plenty of Tottenham’s Premier League rivals would be willing to double the wages of defensive duo Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, while midfielders Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele would have plenty of suitors after stellar seasons.
Even if these players may be convinced they are part of a team that can achieve success in years to come, heads are quickly turned when big money offers are floated in the direction of agents and players.
With the £400m bill to build a new stadium at White Hart Lane eating into the club’s resources, Levy and Tottenham have to decide whether they are ready to join the league of Premier League super clubs by offering their star names contracts that rewards their success this season.
“You need top players if you are going to compete with your top four rivals, but the wage rise makes it hard for Tottenham to compete,” says former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp.
“They have a stadium that only holds 36,000, so they can’t be paying the wages that Manchester City or Chelsea pay.
“You only have to look at Man City’s squad and it’s absolutely frightening the players they have on the bench.
“Tottenham are about to build a new stadium and try to take it to the next level and there is no reason why the can’t do it if they start paying the wages that will allow them to hang on to their best players and sign world class talent.
“I love what Pochettino has done at Spurs over the last couple of years. The football they have played has been the best since...my Spurs team of a few years back!
“They now need to kick on from here and the manager will need the backing of the chairman and the owner (Joe Lewis) if he is going to do that.”
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri is probably right when he suggests his side’s Premier League title triumph is likely to be a once in a lifetime experience that will never be repeated again.
Fairy tales are rarely sustainable in top-level sport, but Tottenham should not see themselves as one-season wonders among the Premier League elite.
The bricks are being put in place for this club to become Champions League regulars in the coming years, yet a nagging suspicion remains that penny-pinching Levy will be the obstacle to their ambition.
Tottenham are about to reach a moment where they need to stick or twist and if Levy opts for the former, as he has tended to do down there years, Pochettino and his class of 2016 will be compelled to realise their dreams elsewhere.
CURRENT ANNUAL PREMIER LEAGUE WAGE BILL
1. Chelsea - £215.6m
2. Man Utd - £203m
3. Man City - £193.8m
4. Arsenal - £192m
5. Liverpool - £152m
6. Tottenham - £110.5m
7. Newcastle - £75.8m
8. Everton - £74.5m
9. Stoke - £72.3m
10. Sunderland - £71m
11. West Ham - £69.5m
12. West Brom - £68.5m
13. Aston Villa - 65.1m
14. Southampton - £59.5m
15. Crystal Palace - £54.3m
16. Swansea - £51m
17. Leicester - £48.2m
18. Norwich - £37m
19. Watford - £29m
20. Bournemouth - £25m