clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Franco Baldini's departure from Tottenham closes the door on the AVB era

The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur's beleaguered Technical Director has left the club. Spurs announced on their website and via twitter that Franco Baldini has left Spurs to "spend time outside of club football," which confirms rumors that emerged earlier this summer about his impending departure.

Baldini was brought in from Roma back in 2013 to work with manager Andre Villas-Boas in identifying and purchasing talent after Spurs sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. At the time, AVB was pushing for a Director of Football, "someone who has experience of dressing rooms, represents the club, and is able to link up with players and agents." Baldini was well known and respected from his time at Roma, with an address book full of agents and football insiders, and a reputation for identifying and landing proven talent. He looked to be a great addition to the backroom team as Spurs were suddenly flush with cash and looking for a push into the top four.

And Baldini came through with the "Gareth Bale Seven." The summer signings of Vlad Chiriches, Nacer Chadli, Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, and Etienne Capoue were looked at favorably by just about everyone in the footballing media. At the time, it was thought that spending big was the best and most well-proven method to catapult a club into a higher tier. Throwing cash at the problem worked for Manchester City and Chelsea, after all, two pretty solid data points. So Spurs uncharacteristically spent big in an attempt to improve the squad immediately, even if financially the transfer window ended up a net gain.

But as we know, things didn't work out. Two years later, over half of the signings are gone, with only Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, and Nacer Chadli remaining. Worse, the phrase "pulling a Spurs" has entered into the footballing lexicon as a pejorative. Baldini's last act as a member of Tottenham Hotspur appears to have been to sell the players that he brought on just two summers ago. It's an inauspicious ending to a tenure that began with lots of money and even more promise.

The writing was surely on the wall the day that Daniel Levy signed Paul Mitchell and his "black box" from Southampton. Here was a talent evaluator that was the exact opposite of Baldini: one that uses stats and metrics to identify hidden gems and overlooked young players with potential, compared to Baldini's rolodex of contacts, smooth talk, and relationships with top players and their agents.

The appointment of Mitchell was a bell-weather to Spurs' current modus operands: go small. Take risks, turn over rocks, and find those players for (relatively) cheap who will develop into world beaters. The signings that Spurs are targeting, and developing, under Mauricio Pochettino are young players that can come through the academy, or continental players on the upslope of their playing careers. Players like Dele Alli, Kevin Wimmer, and even Son Heung-Min who are somewhat undervalued but could turn into superstars with the right coaching.

It should be stressed that the failures of the summer 2013 window are not all Baldini's fault. Not at all, in fact. Buying players is a tricky business, and while not every signing works out the way their clubs hopes for, nearly all of the Bale Seven were lauded as fantastic pieces of business. Who could've predicted that Roberto Soldado would go from one of the best strikers in Spain to a man who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn? Who couldn't possibly guessed that a universally praised Brazilian World Cup starting midfielder would turn out to be a flash in the pan? It's easy to blame Baldini for being wrong, but nobody, especially not Baldini himself, though Spurs were wrong at the time. Hindsight is 20/20. But rightly or wrongly these signings happened under Baldini's watch, and Baldini rightfully has fallen on his sword.

With Baldini's departure, the club has finally closed the door on the disastrous era that followed the sacking of Harry Redknapp and fully ushered in a new era at the club. Under Pochettino and Mitchell, Spurs have a clear and decisive focus and a distinct look about them, and it's a system that appears to be working as the club tries to bide its time until the new stadium is finished and Spurs can take a seat at the financial "adult table." With the youngest team in the Premier League and the early results to back it up, the way forward appears clear, and despite his best efforts, Franco Baldini will not be a part of that future.