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Daniel Levy’s Imaginary Shortlist: Andre Gray

The 2015-16 Championship Player of the Year is stalling on a contract extension with Burnley. Is his addition a value-add for the depth of Tottenham Hotspur?

Crystal Palace v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images

We at Cartilage Free Captain do transfer rumors often, and we do them well. But sometimes it’s worth doing a deeper dive into Tottenham Hotspur’s transfer targets, so we’re bringing back a series from a couple of years ago — Daniel Levy’s Imaginary Shortlist. These are players that Spurs have either been linked to in the transfer window, or sometimes who they should be linked to as the club tries to improve to challenge for a Premier League title.

Up next: Burnley star center-forward Andre Gray

The Basics

Name: Andre Gray
Age: 25
Team: Burnley
Nationality: English
League: Premier League
Primary position: Center-Forward
Can also play: Second Striker, right/left attacking midfielder

In 2015, Burnley broke their transfer fee record to secure the services of Andre Gray and oh how that paid off. Gray made forty-one appearances for the club in the 2015-16 season, scored twenty-three goals, won the 2015-16 Championship Player of the Year award, and was central to the club’s Premier League promotion.

While Gray didn’t reach the heights of his 2015-16 performances in his first year in the Premier League, he was pivotal to Burnley avoiding relegation, and was easily the most dangerous component to Burnley’s attack. Individually he finished the year second in goals and assists for the Clarets, with nine goals and three assists for the season. Those stats are average at best for the foremost offensive option in a side, but in Gray’s defense Burnley were pitiful going forward, and he lacked talent to combine with.

The Specifics

Andre Gray is the embodiment of a reserve striker for a top half club. The guy is a no nonsense, hard-working, direct forward who has a gift for finding the back of the net. You aren’t going to find cheeky highlight reels of chips, flicks, and flair from the Englishman. His game is working in tight spaces around the box, clearing a half yard from the a defender, and ripping a low driven shot past the opposing goalkeeper.

Gray doesn’t have blistering pace, but he is fast enough to seal off and stay ahead of defenders on a killer through ball. He doesn’t have incredible dribbling ability, though he has fantastic ball control. This attribute, combined with his muscular frame, means that he can create space for himself and get a shot off without completely beating a defender.

In other words, he is your prototypical center-forward. He isn’t a perfect example of a hulking number nine, he lacks the height for that, but he checks off the majority of the boxes one wants to see for the position. He is maybe best suited for the second striker role in a 4-4-2, but in terms of Tottenham Hotspur and modern football, he really is only suitable at the center-forward role. He can play out wide, preferably in a 4-3-3, and even in a 4-2-3-1, but this isn’t where he excels, and its a position that he would never feature in for Spurs.

The links to Tottenham, and there haven’t been a whole heck of a lot them, are tied to the facts that both his contract negotiations are stalling and his relationship with Sean Dyche is questionable. Gray is signed with Burnley through 2018, and while the Lancashire outfit is keen to extend his contract, they are unwilling to drastically increase his £30,000 per week salary. Further, Dyche sent Gray to the bench in the very late stages of the season and that doesn’t usually bode well with a player who is uncertain about his future with the club.

Gray also feels like someone who probably will take the chance to move on if he is given the opportunity. This is a guy with little pedigree who was playing for Luton Town in the lower rungs of English football not too long ago. At age 25, this is probably his best and last chance to move to a bigger club, whose Premier League ambitions aren’t simply to avoid relegation, and to increase his wages as well.

I’m regurgitating some of what Menno said the other day about Josh King, but there are massive questions as to whether or not Gray is a true upgrade to Vincent Janssen. With Poche more than willing to play Son as the lone forward in Harry Kane’s absence, is he that much better than Janssen as a third option? Lamela and Son’s first seasons in the Premier League are prime examples to suggest that Spurs should either save their money on Gray or reallocate those funds elsewhere.

The Verdict

Likely price: £20m.

Chances that the valuation is wrong: The transfer market is crazy as ever and Burnley are thin in the attack. £20 million seems ridiculous and high, obviously, but they did turn down £15 million from West Ham for him in January. I’d imagine they’ll set the price high and hope others capitulate as the summer progresses.

Team’s willingness to sell: Depends on if they can retain Michael Keane or not. If they are flush with cash from the sale of their prized center-back, they may be more likely to hold strong with Gray. With his late season benching, its murky as to see how important Burnley view him to the success of their 2017-18 side. Of course, even if they view him as irreplaceable, every player has a price and Burnley are certainly a selling club. If somebody really wants Andre Gray, they’ll be able buy Andre Gray.

Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: An average fit for an average player. Nothing against Andre Gray, he did quite well in the transition to the Premier League and absolutely lit up the Championship the year before, but he is nothing more than a reserve striker in case of a serious injury to Harry Kane. In the event of rotation, those duties would most likely fall to Son, who he definitely isn’t better than. Gray only becomes relevant if Kane is out long-term. Is he £15-20 million pounds better than Janssen?

Possibility he ends up at Spurs: Totally revolves around Vincent Janssen and his willingness to remain back-up to Harry Kane on Tottenham Hotspur. The dude was starting for the Dutch National Team in the Euros before transferring to White Hart Lane last summer. If Janssen is fine fighting for his place and rotating in a Champions League side, I think the possibility of a move for Gray is low.

Grade if this transfer goes through: C+. Gray has proven that he can perform in the Premier League and English football in general. He wouldn’t be the answer at the striker position for more than a month or two and would have little sell-on value after his contract ended. That said, he is a hard working forward who is proficient in front of net. He wouldn’t be the worst band-aid in the world to rely on for the League Cup and depth chart. Further, he’d fully understand his role before coming into the team. Like Michel Vorm, he’d probably be happy to collect larger wages and play for a top tier English football club.