Tottenham takeover talk adds new layer of uncertainty at a curious club who only do Spursy

Dave Tickner
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, home of Spurs

There’s a temptation to succumb to confirmation bias and just conclude that anything connected with Spurs is by definition Spursy.

The good news, though, is that in doing so you will very, very rarely be wrong. Most things Spurs do are Spursy. Even the bright spots from a very Spursy performance in the Champions League on Tuesday night – the performances of young lamb-to the-slaughter midfield duo Oliver Skipp and Pape Matar Sarr – were Spursy if you look closely enough. They were only playing because a youth-averse, stubborn manager was forced to pick them.

Their displays skewered the ‘Conte must know best, he sees them in training!’ argument and left everyone wondering what might have happened if he’d just considered maybe even trying Djed Spence in a game or two here and there.

See? Even good news can always be Spursy if you look hard enough. They managed to beat Manchester City again yet find a significant downside because of the Arsenal-assisting nature of the result. Spursy, Spursy, Spursy.

Spursy when they win, Spursy when they lose, Spursy when there’s good news, Spursy when there’s bad news. In summary, then: Spursy.

But we should still take care. Is everything actually Spursy? It is always possible that something might occasionally come along connected with Spurs but not actually Spursy. We must always remain vigilant. Especially if it’s about something we don’t really understand, like football takeovers or pretty much anything to do with the business side of the game. Far too complicated.

This Spurs takeover talk, though. Feels kinda Spursy. First of all, we’re not remotely sure from reading the Financial Times report about the apparent interest of the Iranian-American billionaire Jahm Najafi whether it’s adding debt to the club or taking it away.

The $3.75bn offer ‘would value the club’s equity at approximately $3bn before adding about $750mn of debt on the club’s books,’ it says here. Does that mean Glazer-style debt leveraging of $750m, or wiping out the club’s existing debt?

See, we don’t write about this stuff for the same reason the FT doesn’t write about football. Our contribution to the financial side of this conversation would be as cogent as the football-explaining bits in the FT’s article, which include such gems as ‘Like Chelsea, Spurs is seen as a member of the so-called Big Six group of clubs — including Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United — that regularly compete at the top of the table in the European Champions League.’

Current owners ENIC remain adamant that the club is not currently for sale, but it sort of is and always has been if the price is right. There’s been no secret that outside investment of one sort or another is being actively sought.

And while large sections of the trophy-starved Spurs fanbase are sufficiently ENIC (and specifically Daniel Levy) Out to welcome any and all takeovers, this one doesn’t seem like it sits quite right.

If the FT has it right, the Najafi-led bid would certainly trumpet sporting success as its ultimate aim – which hasn’t always clearly been the case under ENIC’s shrewd and undeniably in many ways successful stewardship – it would still be under the guise of a business trying to turn a profit.

That this bid would be 30% backed by Abu Dhabi-based investors raises the prospect of it being the worst of all worlds: the stigma of oil money without the state-ownership largesse.

That feels pretty Spursy, as does blindly welcoming any takeover talk just because it comes from someone who isn’t cruelly and childishly denying Antonio Conte more £60m signings.

Those concerns could be entirely misplaced, of course, and perhaps those ‘can’t be worse’ doom-mongers are right. We don’t know enough about Najafi or his backers or even how serious the bid is. Will there even be a bid? What are its chances of success if there is one? Is it just to smoke out other interested parties? Is it an attempt to push Everton into a corner, given Najafi has been linked with a Toffees takeover too?

Dunno. Genuinely not a clue. But what this news undeniably does bring is yet more uncertainty to a club currently mired in it.

Spurs are in a really weird position where nothing now has any sense of permanence. Antonio Conte and his staff have less than six months to run on their current contracts. There appears to be less than wholehearted commitment to extending those deals on any side.

We can at least say with some certainty Spurs would very much like to extend Harry Kane’s contract as it enters its final 18 months, but there’s no concrete evidence he feels the same way.

It’s currently pretty much impossible to predict what Spurs will do on the pitch from one week to the next.

By the end of this season they could have won the FA Cup or Champions League or finished in the top four or any combination of the above. Or they could be out of contention for all of those things within the next month. By May they might have a manager or they might not.

And off the pitch the picture is now even less clear. They might have new owners coming in imminently, or it might be ENIC for another 20 years.

There are few clubs whose short-term and medium-term futures both on and off the pitch are so unclear, whose future direction so utterly unknowable.

Apart from one thing: it will most likely be Spursy.

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