It’s been a few hours since the bombshell news that Arne Slot, once considered almost a shoo-in to accept the position of manager at Tottenham Hotspur, is set instead to stay at Feyenoord. We’re now starting to get some reporting about what actually happened in the negotiations that took place yesterday and today that led to the two sides parting ways without an agreement.
There are conflicting (and unconfirmed) reports, but one of the latest comes from Dutch periodical De Telegraaf, one of the most prominent newspapers in the Netherlands. In a Dutch language video, De Telegraaf journalist Marcel van der Kraan said that the main issue was that Feyenoord, who wanted to do everything possible to keep their manager, demanded a massive fee to release Slot from his contract. Tottenham balked at the amount of money, and Slot ultimately decided he was better off accepting an offer from Feyenoord, one of the most lucrative in Eredivisie history, to extend his contract.
I don’t speak Dutch, so the translation is courtesy of Sport Witness.
“Of course, it’s a very strange twist in the transfer story. Spurs have had contact with [Rafaela] Pimenta, the Brazilian agent who took over from Mino Raiola for a fortnight. It was her who maintained all those contacts, Spurs did not deal with Slot directly.
“Pimenta indicated last week that, yes, he is open, and he wants the transfer now and he does want to take a few people from his staff with him so we will have to have a talk with Feyenoord to see what is possible and make a deal.
“But Feyenoord said no to that and made it clear ‘guys, listen up, this is our top coach. He is still with us, and we are holding him to his contract. If you really want him, then a huge ransom will have to be paid’.
“At first, they didn’t let it be known how much it would be and that was a big frustration. Tottenham wanted to know an amount but that wasn’t put on the table or shared through Pimenta either. That made talks with Feyenoord very complicated.
“Then the truth came out last night. After a whole day of talks, Slot finally opted to just extend his contract. That includes the best salary Feyenoord have ever offered a coach, maybe even the best ever in the Eredivisie.
“It also became clear that Tottenham would not pay the amount Feyenoord wanted for Slot, which was €20m. Feyenoord have spared no expense by doing everything possible to keep him. They played a very hard game but a simple one. He is our coach; he’s stuck with us, and he can’t just leave.
“Maybe he (Slot) thought ‘well if you see what I’ve done for the club Feyenoord will cooperate’ but they made it clear they are in control, not him or Tottenham Hotspur.”
So on the one hand I get it. £15m to release a manager from his contract is a ludicrous amount of money. It’s stupid money. It’s as much as we paid Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte for an entire year’s work, and even that was stupid high for a manager. It was ridiculous when Bayern Munich paid about that much money to get Julian Nagelsmann, one of the most in-demand managers world football, out of RB Leipzig, and it’s especially ludicrous for a manager with only a few years of top level experience currently in the Eredivisie. But Slot is also under contract at Feyenoord, and since he doesn’t (currently) have a buy-out clause in his contract, Feyenoord could ask whatever fee they wanted. The wild thing is that the number they asked for, ~€20m, was actually slightly less than the €25m mooted in Netherlands papers earlier in the week.
But Spurs are not off the hook here, because they played their cards horribly. The club has been briefing to any journalist who will listen that Slot’s the guy, the chosen one, the person they’ve identified as their top choice for the job. It’s provided any number of glowing thinkpiece articles across the football media ecosystem. Likewise, the details of Slot’s contract and the lack of a buyout clause until 2024 is hardly a secret, nor was the prospect of Feyenoord demanding a huge fee to let him leave the club. If Spurs are going to do that and then enter into negotiations with Slot’s agent and with Feyenoord, it’s almost criminal negligence to walk away when confronted with almost exactly the reported fee. You either stay silent and let nothing out of your bubble until your chosen coach is on a flight to London to sign the contract, or you pay the required fee to get him.
Instead, Spurs made it abundantly clear who they wanted to sign, and then acted shocked, walking away from the table, when the previously leaked demands were issued. I don’t know if they expected Slot or Pimenta to fight harder to leave or not, that might explain part of it, but clearly Slot wasn’t as into Spurs as Spurs were to him, because he seemed perfectly content to stay and play Champions League football next season with Feyenoord.
The worst part of it is that it seems like just more evidence that Tottenham do not have a plan on what to do. This is literally what Daniel Levy is supposed to be good at, and it feels like he let himself get played. A smart club would’ve had a contingency in place to hire a director of football immediately after Fabio Paratici’s situation was fully known, so that person could actually do the job of hiring a new head coach. But now we’re two months past that date and Spurs are trying to hire both a DoF and a manager at the same time, something that’s pretty clearly negatively affecting both searches. It gives the impression that Tottenham are, once again, lurching from target to target without any structure or clear vision of what they want.
I don’t know where Spurs go from here, but every time I feel like Tottenham have found their nadir, there always seem to be another sub-basement that they can fall backwards into. It’s exhausting and I’m so, so tired.