Football Features

Hit or miss? Every player Spurs signed with their Gareth Bale money

By Ben Green

Published: 11:30, 26 July 2021

Erik Lamela looks set to leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer, which would finally close the chapter on the club’s ‘Spurs seven’ era.

Following Gareth Bale’s world record £85.3m transfer move to Real Madrid in 2013, Spurs sought to plug the gaping void left behind by the Welshman by investing heavily in the same transfer window.

Then head coach Andre Villas-Boas brought in no fewer than seven players, heralding the start of what was planned to be an exciting new era in north London.

Only, the next season proved anything but exciting, with Villas-Boas leaving his post in December after a poor run of results, and Tim Sherwood coming in to stabilise the ship, with Spurs dropping down from fourth in 2012/13 to sixth in 2013/14. 

For one reason or another, not all of the aforementioned ‘seven’ were able to acclimatise to White Hart Lane and fashion a long-standing career at the club. Some fared better than others, but by and large that summer window has gone down in Spurs folklore as a wasted opportunity.

With that considered, we’ve rated how each player got on during their time at Spurs and whether they were a hit or a miss.

Christian Eriksen

Eriksen will unquestionably go down as the major coup of the 2013/14 summer transfer window. Signed as a fresh-faced 21-year-old from Ajax, the Denmark international has gone on to achieve great heights in north London, including scooping two ‘Player of the Year’ accolades.

Such has been his playmaker mastery at Spurs that only himself and David Beckham have provided 10+ assists in four consecutive Premier League seasons.

The midfielder was instrumental as Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs reached a first-ever Champions League final in 2019, while he will also go down in the club’s illustrious goalscoring annals as one of only five players to find the back of the net at least 50 times in the Premier League for Spurs.

Verdict: Hit

Paulinho

In the months leading up to Paulinho’s move to the Premier League, the Brazilian clinched the Copa Libertadores with Corinthians and the Confederations Cup with his country. A £17m fee may have seemed steep for a player coming from Brazilian football, but given his credentials and the fact he was a regular at the time for the Selecao, many fans and pundits thought Spurs had pulled off a transfer masterstroke.

However, as we now know Paulinho’s career at Spurs was blighted by inconsistent performances, which culminated in a red card during the club’s 5-0 capitulation to Liverpool and Villas-Boas’ immediate dismissal afterwards. He eventually lost his place in the Brazil national team, started just three Premier League matches the following season, and left for Guangzhou Evergrande.

The football world thought they’d heard the last of Paulinho, but the Brazilian resurrected his career in the Chinese Super League, impressing to such an extent that La Liga giants Barcelona acquired his services in 2017. He played a key part as Barca clinched a domestic double in 2017/18 and returned to East Asia the following year. The 32-year-old recently signed for Al-Ahli in the Saudi Pro League.

Verdict: Miss

Roberto Soldado

When Spurs splashed out a club-record £26m on fully-fledged Spain international Roberto Soldado, fans thought they were getting the real McCoy, everything that Harry Kane is now – and possibly even more.

As it turns out, like Paulinho, the ex-Valencia marksman would go on to prove a very expensive flop in north London. The 12-time Spain international struggled to live up to his lofty price tag and netted a quite measly seven goals in 52 Premier League games – four of those were penalties.

Villarreal eventually offered the Spaniard an escape hatch in 2015 but he never went on to rediscover the form that saw him net 81 goals in 141 games for Valencia, leaving for Fenerbahce after two seasons. He joined Granada in 2019, and has since moved to Levante.

Verdict: Miss

Nacer Chadli

Nacer Chadli spent three years under three different managers at Spurs, all with varying degrees of success. Under Villas-Boas he was an unmitigated flop following his £7m move, and things only slightly improved with Sherwood at the helm. However, it would take Pochettino coming in before Chadli really began to showcase his exploits in the final third.

The Belgian enjoyed a high-scoring 2014/15 season at White Hart Lane, which saw Spurs finish as the League Cup runners-up, but he was unable to push on from there and endured a less productive 2015/16 before eventually relocating to the Hawthorns with West Brom.

After just one full season in the West Midlands, he was off again, this time to Monaco, but after 22 appearances and no goals on the French Riviera, the 31-year-old returned to his homeland, spending 2019/20 on loan at Anderlecht. Last summer he moved to Istanbul Basaksehir and his efforts in Turkey recently saw him go to Euro 2020 with Belgium.

Verdict: Miss

Etienne Capoue

You almost feel that Etienne Capoue is the kind of midfielder Spurs need at the minute: strong, combative and composed in possession. However, the club weren’t treated to the authoritative showings that Watford fans — and more recently Villarreal fans — have seen from the Frenchman these past few seasons.

Capoue joined Spurs from Toulouse with high expectations of developing into a leading Premier League central midfielder. But, after just 19 league starts and two seasons, things clearly weren’t working out, and the Hornets eventually prised him away for a then club-record fee of around £6.3m. He went on to excel at Vicarage Road, forming a formidable destroyer-creator partnership with Abdoulaye Doucoure, but following the club’s relegation he joined Villarreal.

Under Unai Emery, the Frenchman was indispensable as the club beat Manchester United to claim their first ever Europa League title in May.

Verdict: Miss

Vlad Chiriches

Vlad Chiriches joined Spurs as a bit of an anomaly from Steaua Bucharest, but the expectations were that the club found a modern centre-back capable of defending with brutish force who was also comfortable playing out from the back. As it turned out, Chiriches was tidier with the ball at his feet than when the opposition came running at him.

He famously produced a man-of-the-match performance in a 2-1 win at Man Utd on New Year’s Day in 2014, but it was downhill from there, and the Romanian quickly fell down the pecking order before leaving for Napoli, where he spent five years without cementing a starting berth. He is currently plying his trade for Sassuolo. 

Verdict: Miss

Erik Lamela

Erik Lamela was last to sign in the summer of 2013 and was last to remain at the club. It’s safe to say the midfielder has had an up-and-down career in a Spurs jersey, but has never really been able to transition into the world-beater many were expecting him to be when he joined from Roma.

The Argentina international scored a quite impressive 15 Serie A goals as a precocious teenage winger in 2012/13 for the Giallorossi, prompting Daniel Levy to courier big wads of cash to the Eternal City for his signature.

However, after eight years in north London, the 29-year-old hasn’t quite lived up to his initial billing. Granted injury problems haven’t made thing easy over the years, though you can’t help but feel that Spurs fans were still waiting across the past few seasons for the River Plate graduate to transform into the like-for-like Bale replacement they thought they were getting.

For the price they paid and the initial promise, this one has to go down as a miss. But credit is due for outlasting everyone else, and for, of course, netting that outrageous rabona in last season’s North London Derby. Some Spurs fans may argue the circa £30m was worth it just for that goal alone.

The Argentine now looks set to leave the Premier League for Sevilla, with 20-year-old Bryan Gil heading in the opposite direction.

Verdict: Miss