Just when it seemed that Tottenham had exhausted all sorts of disappointments for a season, Daniel Levy discovered that top management goals can prove to be just as elusive as big trophies.
Erik ten Hag is the last to reject Spurs’ claims and spoke to them via Zoom earlier this week before choosing to stay with Ajax, which yesterday activated a clause to extend his contract until 2023.
It is the final blow to Chairman Levy and Steve Hitchen, the club’s technical director who led the search for a successor to Jose Mourinho, who was fired 12 days ago.
Daniel Levy took a big hit in his search for a new Spurs boss when another name stepped down
Ajax boss Erik ten Hag reached agreement on a contract extension with the Dutch giants on Friday morning
Hitchen has announced that he wants a ‘young’ and ‘dynamic’ coach who is committed to adventurous football.
RB Leipzig’s Julian Nagelsmann was the first choice and it seems he had given the Spurs some encouragement when they initially talked to him about taking over Mourinho when that time came earlier in the season.
This was before Hansi Flick revealed his intention to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season and may be a clue to the bizarre timing of Mourinho’s resignation.
Julian Nagelsmann, tied with Bayern Munich, was the early favorite to take over at Tottenham
Flick’s departure was confirmed on April 17, one day after Tottenham’s draw in Everton, and Mourinho was fired on the morning of the 19th, but it was too late.
Nagelsmann had agreed to join Bayern and Levy turned to Brendan Rodgers, who still has four years left before his contract with Leicester, where he has an FA Cup final to look forward to.
Rodgers is closer to trophies and the Champions League where he is. Leicester has a cohesive recruitment strategy and a fantastic new training field – key factors for ambitious managers.
Continuing in the same vein, Rodgers will find the next offering more appealing than Spurs.
Spurs then turned to Brendan Rodgers of Leicester City, who is not interested in the role
Ten Hag, who speaks more fluent German than English, can see the Bundesliga as the next step when he leaves Ajax.
None of them will do well at Spurs. In two years, they’ve fallen from Champions League regulars to Europa League hopefuls. Money is tight with a stadium to fund in a post-pandemic world, and the team looks in dire need of a remodel.
Levy, with his penchant for squeezing maximum value out of every piece of transfer business, in or out, isn’t your man for a quick rebuild.
Aside from firing managers, business at Spurs usually moves slowly and always with the balance in mind. They signed up to take the taxpayers’ money out of the leave scheme. They signed up for the Bank of England loan. They signed up for the European Super League.
Levy is looking for a new manager after firing under attack Jose Mourinho last week
No wonder Harry Kane is quietly looking for a way out and there is no rush of fans to renew season tickets.
Levy doesn’t crave popularity yet his reputation is at rock bottom among the backers, some of whom are still planning a protest before Sunday’s game at home against Sheffield United.
The chairman cannot afford another misstep. Busy appointments may have slipped through his fingers, but there is no shortage of managers who would seize the opportunity to take control of one of English football’s great names.
Ralf Rangnick, influential mentor to the new wave of German coaches, has emerged as a leading candidate. He is out of work and is recommended by a close adviser to Levy.
Ralf Rangnick (above) has emerged as the lead candidate after Spurs’ wave of rejections
He’s looking forward to the job too, as is Rafa Benitez, although they are both in their 60s and barely fit Hitchen’s criteria for ‘young’ and ‘dynamic’.
Graham Potter and Scott Parker have admirers at Spurs, but how would fans react to recruiting from the relegation battle? The same could be said about Chris Wilder and David Wagner.
Or Eddie Howe, who was dragging his feet over a proposed move to Celtic. Or the Belgian boss Roberto Martinez. Any of these could be the right fit, although some fans would find reason to object.
Rafa Benitez (L) and Eddie Howe (R) are still fighting to take the job at Tottenham
There was no great fanfare for Levy’s three most successful appointments: Martin Jol promoted from assistant, Harry Redknapp lured from Portsmouth or Mauricio Pochettino from Southampton.
Even more worrying is the fact that some don’t see Spurs as a reliable entry point into the upper echelons of the Premier League.
Rodgers was in charge of Swansea when he insulted Chelsea by stepping back from their top job, saying he was trying to build his career rather than ‘destroy’ it.
Maybe he thinks something similar about Levy’s Spurs. Maybe he’s not alone.