'Tottenham risk losing top stars if they don't invest in squad that will win trophies' - Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker has warned the clock is ticking on Tottenham’s hopes of becoming a major force in the game, after expressing fears manager Mauricio Pochettino and his star players may be forced to walk away from the club.
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In an exclusive interview with us, former Tottenham striker Lineker fears the north London club could be in danger of spurning an 'opportunity of a lifetime' to join the game's elite clubs, as he suggests they have never been closer to challenging for the game's major honours.
Lineker suggests Tottenham's run to last season’s Champions League final changed the club's image in the eyes of the football world, but he has urged Spurs chairman Daniel Levy to confirm he is ready to push the club into the winners' circle.
Yet Lineker suspects their lack of investment in new players could eventually burst Pochettino’s Tottenham bubble, after a summer that saw them sign Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon for a club-record £63m and complete a move to capture Ryan Sessegnon from Fulham for £25m.
That left Lineker to claim Tottenham may come up short in their efforts to lift the game's most prestigious silverware once again.
"Tottenham have been so close in recent years to making that breakthrough and it could get to a point when Pochettino and his players will start to question whether they can make that next leap with Spurs," begins BT Sport host Lineker, who scored 80 goals for Tottenham and won the FA Cup with the club in 1991.
"Players like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min all signed new contracts with the club in recent years, but they will want to start winning trophies and unless Spurs sign players of top-level calibre, they may start to question whether that can happen.
"Jose Mourinho recently stated that keeping your best players is just as important as making expensive signings and I would agree with that sentiment, but there will come a point where a player like Kane may feel he has to move on to win things.
"This is a seminal moment for Tottenham. They could go back to being what they used to be or they could take that step, invest some serious money and become one of the game's powerhouses.
"When you consider Tottenham didn’t sign a single player in the two transfer windows before this summer and Pochettino has kept them in the Champions League for four successive years and got them to the final of that competition last season, it is an impressive statistic.
"I met up with Pochettino a few months ago and you could sense that he was keen for the club to show some ambition and try to compete for some of the biggest names in European football, as that is what Tottenham need now to go to the next level.
"They are not far short of being a really, really top side, but they tend to come up short against Manchester City and Liverpool and that is the standard they have to try and get to now.
"I believe they are the third best team in the Premier League this season, but the gap between them and the top two is still pretty big and at some point, Pochettino and his best players will want the club to make some effort to close that.
"It must be very frustrating for all involved in the playing side at Tottenham. We don’t know whether paying for the stadium has drained the resources to a point that they can’t sign players, but there must be a real danger they will drive away Pochettino and some of the big-name players unless something changes."
The future of playmaker-in-chief Christian Eriksen has been a pressing issue all summer, with the Dane making it clear both privately to Tottenham chiefs and in public that he is keen to explore a fresh challenge away from Tottenham.
With his contract set to expire next summer and Eriksen making it clear that he has no intention of renewing even if he is given a bumper pay rise, Spurs chairman Levy is believed to be open to selling the 27-year-old amid interest from Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Juventus.
There are suggestions that Pochettino blocked a possible swap deal involving Eriksen and Dybala earlier this months and Lineker believes Tottenham need to do all they can to hang on to their creative midfield maestro, as he suggests a move to Spain or Italy may be a risk for a player who has proved himself to a star in the Premier League.
"There has been talk of a move to Real Madrid and if that was open to him, you would see why he might be tempted, but I look at the Tottenham team as it is now and I’m not sure going to Spain would be a step up for him from a sporting perspective.
"Tottenham have a top manager in place, a settled team and are ready to kick on and you look at what happened to Philippe Coutinho after he moved from Liverpool to Barcelona and it shows there is no guarantee a move will work out, however good a player you might be."
Time may be running out for Tottenham in the bid to snatch their place among the game’s giants for the next decade and more, with Pochettino and his star names still waiting to discover whether the club is ready to back their manager to turn potential into titles.
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PREMIER LEAGUE WAGE BILLS
Tottenham have been punching above their weight in the Premier League throughout Mauricio Pochettino’s reign as the club’s manager, with their fourth successive season in the Champions League evidence of their consistency.
As these figures for Premier League wage bills confirm, Tottenham are operating on a budget close to a mid-table team rather than a side with genuine ambitions to challenge for major honours.
The percentage figure in brackets highlights the percentage of outgoings on wages compared to turnover, with Tottenham estimated to have the lowest income/wages ratio in the Premier League last season.
Manchester United: £296m (50%)
Manchester City: £260m (52%)
Liverpool: £246m (58%)
Chelsea: £246m (55%)
Arsenal: £240m (60%)
Tottenham: £148m (39%)
Everton: £145m (77%)
Leicester: £119m (75%)
Crystal Palace: £117m (78%)
Southampton: £113m (75%)
West Ham: £107m (61%)