Tottenham Hotspur are playing a dangerous game. Toby Alderweireld’s current deal with the club expires in 2019, and though they have the option to extend it by a further 12 months, they then risk losing him for a bargain £25.4million. The relatively low release clause in the Belgian centre-back’s contract will become active in the summer of 2018, according to reports.
Alderweireld has missed a large part of the season but is still considered to be one of the best in the Premier League. To replace someone his quality would cost a small fortune.
Yes, Spurs are shrewd in the transfer market and are one of the best clubs at navigating it; and, yes, Davinson Sánchez has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, meaning they have a readymade replacement for Alderweireld if Mauricio Pochettino opts to play with a defensive four instead of a three moving forward.
If not, and the Spurs manager wants to continue with the 3-4-3, then the club must be prepared to invest heavily. After all, the 21-year-old Colombian many believe can fill the Alderweireld void cost a club-record £42million, and it won’t be long until his agent is demanding a pay rise when Europe’s elite start to show an interest.
Furthermore, Virgil van Dijk’s move to Liverpool changed the game in terms of prices for defenders. A current world record, the Reds parted with £75million to bring the Dutchman to Anfield. For defenders without a release clause, that’s added £10-20million to price tags. It will be no easy task for Pochettino and the recruitment team at Spurs to find a replacement.
It's all pointing towards last season's Premier League runners-up making their first costly mistake in quite some time.
If reports are to believed, negotiations between Alderweireld's representatives and the club have hit a brick wall; Spurs are prepared to offer the 29-year-old £110,000 per week, but the player wants closer to £150,000 per week to give him parity with some of the Premier League's best defenders.
The player himself knows this, as do his representatives. They know he'll be better compensated for his ability at another club and are using this as leverage. The club, however, are holding their own.
It's no surprise to see this; Spurs are notorious for managing their wage bill. Last season they ranked sixth, forking out £120million on wages, a whopping £80million behind Liverpool, who finished fifth in the salary table. They work within their means and it's worked over recent seasons, but this is a crunch period for them.
If both see their pay packet bulge then the likes of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Heung-Min Son and perhaps even Eric Dier will all want similar. If they don't get it then another club would be more than happy to pay it.
According to the Daily Mail in January, Harry Kane has been offered a new deal worth £200,000 per week. Spurs can justify this, what with the striker being one of the best players in the world right now. It's harder to justify wage increases for all of the others when they don't have the budget for it.
There's a domino effect: not only do they end up paying their key players more, they'll end up having to pay first-team players more so there isn't as much as a gulf. Then the wage bill swells and Spurs, famed for being frugal with their money, just become like the other clubs in the top six.
Those in charge of finances at the club now finds themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. They're in a lose-lose predicament and they need to make a decision which will have a lasting impact.
A short-term loss sees
They could opt to bow to long-term ramifications. Players won't join Spurs to be part of the project but instead because of the money on offer. Players motivated by money aren't always the most focused and this can have an impact on team harmony.
Furthermore, spending more money doesn't always result in success. Not unless you can compete with the likes of the Manchester clubs. Paying the going rate for these players won't guarantee a trophy.
It's safe to say that letting