As reported earlier today, Tottenham Hotspur have (finally) appointed Franco Baldini as their new technical director. The appointment comes after month of speculation surrounding the Italian's arrival at White Hart Lane. Manager Andre Villas-Boas, who has expressed interest in working with a technical director in the past, should be pleased that Baldini has arrived and the transfer season can finally begin in earnest.
Baldini served as Sporting Director at AS Roma and Real Madrid under Fabio Capello and moved to England when Capello took over as the manager of the England National team. Following Capello's sacking, Baldini moved back to Roma to serve as their technical director, but it seems as though his role with the Giallorossi was a bit confusing given the presence of Walter Sabatini, who some believed had more influence over Roma's signings than Baldini.
According to Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy, Baldini will be focusing primarily on player recruitment, both for the senior team and the development squads. That's great because, while Levy was an excellent business man, his handling of transfers was often maddening. If Baldini has full control over negotiations, budgets, etc. in the area of recruitment that Tottenham would seem to be pretty well off. In order to determine just how well off Spurs might be, let's look at Baldini's record in the transfer window.
AS Roma 1999-2005
If you're looking for an Italian club to compare Tottenham Hotspur too, you'd probably pick Roma. The Giallorossi are more consistently in the Champions League, but they're still well behind the other big clubs in Italy in terms of trophies and (perhaps) prestige. Fabio Capello was appointed manager in 1990 and Baldini was hired shortly thereafter as director of football.
In 1999 Roma and Baldini spent big, buying Hidetoshi Nakata from Perugia for £19 million and Fabio Junior £12 million. Neither ever amounted to much at Roma, though in Fabio Junior's case it was due to a fake passport and subsequent one year ban from Italian football. Baldini did succeed in acquiring Vincenzo Montella for £22 million and the would be a Roma player for parts of 10 seasons, playing in more than 200 matches and scoring 102 goals, making him thefourth top scorer in Roma history.
Roma continued to spend big the following season, again with mixed results. Gabrielle Batistuta scored scored 21 goals in Roma's first Scudetto winning season since 1983, despite being in his early thirties. Though a near £30 million fee seems excessive. Brazilian Emerson would have a long and successful career for Roma and other top European sides and Jonathan Zebina was a pretty decent right back. The big signing was Walter Samuel, nicknamed "the Wall" for his stoutness in defense.
The following season was pretty quiet in terms of transfer spending. Olivier Dacourt joined on loan from Leeds and went on to make quite a few appearances for Roma. Pep Guardiola also joined on a free. The big thing that happened during this season was Baldini's decision to move youngsters Daniele De Rossi and Alberto Aquilani into the first team from the academy.
The following season, 2003-04, saw Dacourt join permanently and Roma fixture Christian Chivu, then a 22 year-old defender at Ajax, join for £15 million pounds. John Carew was also signed, but for less than £2 million. Baldini's final season in charge saw him burn through five managers, but also brought in a number of important players. Metteo Brighi, Simone Perrotta, Phillipe Mexes, and Tottenham "favorite" Mido all joined the club during this time. Perrotta and Mexes have been fixtures for Roma ever since and Brighi played a good deal in the later part of the 00's.
Looking back, it seems like Baldini wasn't afraid to spend big, though he didn't have a lot of luck selling big. He hit most often on midfielders and defenders, but didn't seem to have much luck with strikers. However, Roma did have Francesco Totti at this time, so it's not like they needed a lot of help in the striking department anyway. Probably the most encouraging sign is that lots of the best players were guys in their early twenties.
Real Madrid 2006-2007
Baldini would spending only one season at Real Madrid with Capello, but what a season it was! In the transfer window, Baldini bought: Gonzalo Higuain (18 years-old), Marcelo (18), Fernando Gago (20), Mahamadou Diarra (25), Ruud van Nistelrooy (30), Fabio Cannavaro (32), Emerson (30) and Jose Antonio Reyes (22). He spent a total of £90 million pounds, but looking at the names on that list he got some extraordinary value for his money. In addition, he sold Ronaldo, Jonathan Woodgate, and Alvaro Arbeloa (perhaps the wrong move at the time), Juilo Baptista, and Roberto Soldado (oops).
In one year Baldini, in January no less, Baldini brought in Gago, Higuain and Marcelo. Gago, who cost the most, isn't nearly the star that the other two players are, but 121 appearances for a club like Real Madrid is still pretty good.
Return to Roma 2012-13
It doesn't make much sense to look at what Baldini did in England while with the national team. First, his role is a bit unclear and second he's not allowed to make transfers. It's not like England can buy players from poorer countries. In theory though, that sounds like a lot of fun. During Baldini's second stint in Roma, Walter Sabatini seems to have been the sporting director, so it's unclear just how much influence Baldini had over transfer spending. I'm still going to look at who came in though because we've gone this far, we might as well keep going.
First, Roma signed a ton (6) Brazilians over the course of the season. Perhaps the biggest coup of all of those was Marquinhos, the central defender from Corinthians who had a stellar debut season in Serie A. His cost, £4 million. Promising Italian striker Mattias Destro came in, as did midfielders Panagiotis Tachtsidis and Michael Bradley. Right back Ivan Piris cost less than £1 million, but made 29 Serie A appearances. Alessandro Florenzi, a promising Italian attacker also joined for close to £1 million.
Baldini's Roma made a ton of loans, co-ownership deals, and other signings and sales in the last calendar year. Most of that seems to have been attributed to general front office disorganization and not anything to do with either Sabatini or Baldini individually. During this period in Rome, Baldini had much less money to work with, but he very clearly targeted young talent with a lot of potential. Destro, Florenzi, and Marquinhos all played well (Destro maybe less so) and Michael Bradley was consistently Roma's best midfielder even when de Rossi returned from injury. Perhaps the most promising thing from this last season was that Roma spent only £36 million on players. And bought only 3 players (out of 21) older than 25.
Tottenham Hotspur 2013-20??
Baldini joins a Tottenham Hotspur side that hasn't had a technical director in years. His addition could be hugely important for the club going forward. Tottenham have questions in midfield, and left back, and most of all at the striking position. The one negative to Baldini as a recruiter of talent is that he hasn't had much luck with strikers. His biggest success came either with Madrid and signing a then 30-year old van Nistelrooy or with Montella at Roma. Granted, both Madrid and Roma already had plenty of elite goal-scoring talent in their squad during Baldini's tenure, but you would like to see more than two good striker signings from a guy with so many years in football management.
The other negative is that Baldini spends money, like, a lot. From published figures that I can find, Baldini has spent a total of £355,936,000 on signings and made only £108,220,000 in sales for a net transfer loss of £247,716,000. Understandbly, these figures don't include any profits a team made on selling on players that Baldini acquired, but were sold after he left. One important thing to remember is that the Roma of the early part of the 2000's spent lira like they were going out of style (which, coincidentally, they were). Also, Madrid, obviously, have money to burn. Thusm it will be interesting to see how the Italian technical director operates under what are certain to be some of the tightest budget constraints he's ever had to deal with.
I am really encouraged though, but the success Baldini has had with bringing in young talented players. His signature buys at Madrid are Higuain and Marcelo and both have panned out quite well. Also, many of the young players he bought in his most recent stint at Roma seem to be quite promising. The success with youngsters combined with an ability to spot good midfielders and defenders means that Spurs could have a strong, young, core for years to come depending on what Baldini does.
In the end, Baldini is really going to be judge on this first transfer window. Tottenham are in a great position to make some deals an acquire some good players. The clubs around Spurs at the top of the division are in a state of flux and if Tottenham can act quickly and decisively under Baldini Spurs could position themselves as, dare I say it, title contenders. Hopefully, Baldini won't make Spurs or their fans wait too long for his first deal.