Tottenham‘s preparations for the 2017/18 season took a major hit just three days before their opening game against Newcastle after Danny Rose openly questioned the clubs ambition and intimated that he’d be open to leaving the club in an interview with the Sun.
Rose, 27, is currently the longest-serving player at the club having joined as a 16-year-old from Leeds United in 2007 and has long been regarded as one of Mauricio Pochettino’s most trusted allies within the Spurs squad.
In November, Dele Alli stated in an interview that the other Spurs players referred to Rose as the Argentine’s ‘teacher’s pet’ while he himself labelled his manager as a ‘father figure’ in December.
Pochettino would have been forgiven for spluttering out his cornflakes in disbelief as he awoke to the news on Thursday that his first-choice left back had arranged an interview without the clubs permission in which he said, amongst other things: “I’m not saying I want out, but if something came to me that was concrete, I’d have no qualms about voicing my opinions to anyone at the club.”
In other words, he said: “Come and get me Manchester United, City or Chelsea.”
That Rose has gone out of his way to question Spurs’ ambition, transfer policy and suitability to win trophies in the near future, will not go down well with Pochettino – a man who has made examples of players such as Nabil Bentaleb and Andros Townsend for similarly public outbursts in the past – nor the chairman Daniel Levy who does his best to run a tight ship.
But is Rose right to question to Spurs’ ambitions?
Supporters of the club might agree with some of Rose’s grievances, namely the lack of transfer activity at Spurs this summer.
While the rest of last season’s top six, not to mention 7th placed Everton, have spent hundreds of millions of pounds between them, upgrading their squads with new players, Spurs remain the only Premier League club yet to make a signing, instead recouping just shy of £80m through player sales.
There is no doubt that Spurs’ squad requires strengthening with Pochettino himself suggesting that he would like as many as three or four players to come in before the close of the transfer window.
Following Kyle Walker’s departure, a right back is needed to provide competition for Kieran Trippier while a central midfielder, a winger who can exploit the vast Wembley pitch and perhaps even a centre back, would also be welcomed.
‘Not players you have to Google’
In that sense, Rose is right, Spurs do need players and watching other rivals strengthen is worrying. However, the manner in which he has gone about addressing his concerns will do him no favours.
Pochettino and Levy have been keen to stress that Spurs are doing things differently than their rivals and Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele and Christian Eriksen have towed the party line by insisting that Spurs’ squad is strong enough as it is.
As well as being disgruntled at the lack of signings, Rose also took a dig at Spurs’ recruitment strategy, saying: “I am not saying buy ten players. I’d love to see two or three — and not players you have to Google and say, ‘Who’s that?’ I mean well-known players.”
While funding an £800m stadium – a project that certainly highlights the club’s ambition long-term – Spurs have to try and be smart in the transfer market by searching for the next big thing rather than the end product, while offering lower wages than other clubs. Invariably that will mean their signings are less high-profile than say Manchester City’s.
Given the nature of their business, Spurs have had some poor buys recently such as Benjamin Stambouli and Clinton N’Jie while neither Georges-Kevin N’Koudou nor Vincent Janssen have provided much of a return on their investment thus far.
Conversely, the club’s approach to finding value in the market has also led them to players such as Eric Dier and Dele Alli, who have gone from being relative unknowns to England regulars at Spurs.
Although at a different time, Rose too benefited from joining a club that places emphasis on signing young players and developing them; it is likely many fans were googling his name when he completed the move from Leeds ten years ago.
Invariably, such a policy will yield mixed results but that is the case with all transfers. Signing established players for big fees offers no guarantee of success, just as the examples of Spurs flops Roberto Soldado and Paulinho highlight.
‘I want to win something’
Questioning a lack of signings is one thing but suggesting that his team-mates aren’t good enough to help him achieve personal ambitions is another entirely.
“Time is running out and I do want to win trophies. I don’t want to play football for 15 years and not have one trophy or one medal,” Rose said.
“Sorry, that’s not what I am about. I wouldn’t be happy with that. I want to win something.”
While Spurs are yet to win anything under Pochettino and haven’t done so since 2008, they have gone close in the last two seasons and their points tally (86) last term was five points more than Leicester managed the year before.
Rose’s team-mate, Dele Alli claimed that Spurs are “inches away” from winning a trophy just a few days before his team-mate’s outburst which suggests the feeling that you have to leave the club to enjoy success isn’t one shared across the squad.
With everyone fit, Spurs boast arguably the strongest starting XI in the Premier League (obviously including Rose himself) and Pochettino has moulded a side where the chief protagonists have played alongside each other for at least two seasons.
Most clubs would envy that sort of continuity and it is definitely advantageous for Spurs that their players know each other’s games inside and out while their rivals have to bed in a number of new arrivals.
Questioning the clubs ambition, having a desire to win trophies and to move up north to see more of his family, are all points that Rose alludes to with question marks over his future, but the underlying factor behind it all is wanting to increase his earnings.
‘One big contract left’
On the topic of money, Rose said: “I am reaching my peak and have probably only got one big contract left in me.
“One thing is for sure — I know my worth and I will make sure I get what I am worth. I am not playing as well as I have done not to get paid what I think I am worth.
“In any walk of life, if you think you are worth a certain amount, why settle for less? I am not that person. As with everyone else in my team, in my opinion, I am worth more than I am getting.”
Supporters never like to hear their own players bemoan their wages and Rose, on a reported salary of £65,000 per week, certainly won’t need to worry about how he will afford next month’s bills anytime soon.
However, he does have a point. Over the past two years, Spurs have been one of the top two clubs in the country, yet their players earn the sixth-highest wages on average with only two players – Hugo Lloris and Harry Kane – earning above £100,000, which is fast becoming the Premier League standard for an average player.
Rose, who has been named in the PFA Team of the Year two seasons running, is entitled to feel that he deserves more money, particularly when he glances around the England dressing room at inferior players earning far more.
But it was only last September that Rose put pen to paper on a five-year deal, expressing at the time: “Everyone knows that the Club is going in the right direction and I’m over the moon that I’ll stay here until I’m an old man.”
Professing his commitment to the club only to complain about his wages 11 months later – eight of which he has spent out injured – is unlikely to cast him in a positive light with the club’s supporters.
Though much of what Rose has said has elements of truth in it, it is the manner and the timing of his comments that will irk Spurs’ manager, chairman, supporters and perhaps even team-mates.
Arranging an interview behind the club’s back to publicly address his concerns three days before the season is due to start and just a couple of days after reported interest from other clubs has emerged is an ill-judged approach.
The disrespect he has shown to the club, the players and the manager who helped transform him from a much-maligned, inconsistent defender into the best in his position in England, is quite staggering.
“People speak about me and to me as if I had two left feet before Mauricio came to the club,” complained Rose in his interview, yet it is only because of Pochettino that Premier League rivals are looking to sign him. He would do well to remember that.