John Giles: How managers are gambling with the future of their players
IT was all going so well at Newcastle but Rafa Benitez is showing the early signs of a man afflicted by a complaint many in his position have suffered from before. Meddling.
It would do owner Mike Ashley a power of good to study the newspapers over the last few days and read about two clubs, Spurs and Chelsea, where meddling used to be mandatory.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wrote the book on it. Every transfer is a gamble and he seemed to be addicted to the buying and selling. As a result, the first team suffered.
The gamble he was taking was with the future of his team and he never seemed to understand why a long list of managers could not make a go of his club. How could they? They were working to the chairman’s football vision and not their own.
Now, things have changed and I saw a headline yesterday claiming that Tottenham’s transfer business over the last five years has lost only £1m which, it has to be said, is a remarkable achievement given the fact that Mauricio Pochettino has assembled a formidable squad and is putting in a real challenge for the title.
But he’s no longer the top deal maker, Levy. I wrote an article last week about Chelsea’s loan business and trading arm and I’m pleased to say that, just a few days later, I can point to a perfect example of it in action.
Patrick Bamford never played a senior game for Chelsea and has moved to Middlesbrough after a list of loan moves as long as your arm for around £6m.
While he was on loan, his host club paid some or all of his wages and now he has turned a £6m profit for Chelsea without ever kicking a ball for them.
Now that’s the way to do it and I’m sure Levy must be looking on with envy and admiration.
The amazing thing about this is that Antonio Conte had almost no part to play in the entire sale and I don’t see any problem with that.
The only question Conte needs to be asked is whether he needs Bamford for his first team squad. If the answer is no, then the trading arm takes over.
To get to such a position, Levy must first maintain the stability of his first team and that means leaving Pochettino alone in every aspect of his work.
Levy has been busy nailing down young lads to long term contracts and that can only be good for Spurs.
Soon, if he follows this road, Spurs will be in a strong position to copy Chelsea and I would be very surprised if Levy doesn’t aspire to some version of loan dealing.
Which brings me back to Newcastle and a very good illustration of how to make a complete mess of a good situation by meddling.
Benitez is a good manager, experienced and hardened by a career which brought him to the very biggest club in the world, Real Madrid.
Ashley should be down on his knees thanking fate for bringing such a good man to St James Park, one committed enough to stay after relegation.
He was hired when Ashley was desperate and Newcastle on course for relegation so he was given the conditions he asked for; most importantly, the final say on buying and selling players. That has changed. Ashley apparently wants the club to focus on buying young players who can be sold on for a profit.
If the Chelsea model is the right one at the moment, then Newcastle is the polar opposite.
Here, there is no attempt to secure the first team before thinking about profits.
In fact, the first team is nothing more than a shop window for Ashley’s trading business and the fans, who pay for everything, watch their team rise and fall on the whim of the transfer market. They know that any decent player that comes along will be sold and any chance of progress thrown away.
Ashley has done this before, selling players from under Alan Pardew who walked away and clearly thinks it is good business but Newcastle were relegated as a direct result and that’s a huge financial loss.
Leave Benitez alone to buy the players he believes will help his team and the money will role in.
Impose rules about who he can and cannot sign and the cycle will just repeat.