A £1bn stadium, a Champions League final… but ONE trophy in 20 years! Daniel Levy is two decades in at Tottenham and, while he divides fans, he wants Mourinho to deliver the biggest prizes of all
- Daniel Levy became Tottenham chairman in 2001, succeeding Lord Alan Sugar
- Levy divides opinion among supporters who feel he is focused on the finances
- His supporters will point to a rise into Europe and consistent top-six finishes
- But his detractors will say Spurs have won just one trophy during his tenure
Few men divide opinion on the Tottenham side of north London quite like Daniel Levy.
Spurs fans have seen Glenn Hoddle, David Pleat, Martin Jol, Juande Ramos, Harry Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood, Mauricio Pochettino and now Jose Mourinho all assume position as manager in his 20 years at the club and yet it is the man upstairs which draws so much criticism and so much praise.
Since taking charge in 2001, leading ENIC Group’s takeover from Lord Sugar for £22million, Levy’s detractors will point to just one trophy, a League Cup in 2008. His fans will counter that he’s delivered one of the finest stadiums in the world and transformed Tottenham into a European powerhouse with memorable nights against Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax.
Daniel Levy (right) has been chairman of Tottenham for 20 years but divides supporter opinion
There are those that feel the chairman is damaging the club from fulfilling its potential
But his biggest critics point to more of an interest in the bank balance than the trophy cabinet. Spurs have been particularly frugal in Levy’s tenure, Sir Alex Ferguson once jesting that dealing with the Tottenham chief was an ‘experience more painful than my hip replacement’.
Levy rarely grants interviews and so when fans do hear from the chairman his words carry weight.
‘It’s the challenge,’ he told Varsity in January, when asked what draws him to sport.
‘The business of sport, and a football club is one of the hardest things to run. If you analyse it, within a football club you are running lots of different businesses, whether it be catering, merchandising, licensing or ticketing but the heartbeat of it is clearly the football and what happens on the pitch.
Levy (middle) took over in 2001 as part of ENIC Group’s takeover from Lord Alan Sugar
Levy (right) has transformed the club and saw them get to a Champions League final in 2019
TOTTENHAM FINISHES UNDER DANIEL LEVY
‘That’s the one aspect that’s not possible to control. You can have some influence on it in terms of your recruitment policy and coaches, among other things, but you can’t control it. I have always enjoyed a challenge.’
In the 10 years before ENIC took the reins Tottenham’s best league finish was 7th. In the last decade Spurs have never finished lower than 6th. Pro-Levy.
January’s latest Deloitte Football Money League had Tottenham as the eight highest-revenue generating club, earning €521.1m (£470m). Again, pro-Levy.
Forbes revealed in May that Spurs’ operating income has increased 380 per cent in five years. Another check for those in the pro-Levy camp.
And yet he has detractors, lots of them who believe his stubbornness with money has held them back on the pitch, lots of them who feel it is Pochettino who really transformed the club.
Levy graduated with First Class honours in Economics and Land Economy at Cambridge in 1985 and soon after began to hone his business acumen in the family business.
But the key soon became his business relationship with American billionaire Joe Lewis, who heads up ENIC.
Getting experience came in the form of investments at Slavia Prague, AEK Athens, Vicenza Calcio and Rangers, where Levy acted as a club director.
Investment company ENIC Group took control of Spurs in February 2001. ENIC owns 85.55 per cent of the club, with Levy and his family controlling 29.4 per cent of ENIC.
Lord Sugar controlled Tottenham for a decade before selling up. It was turbulent and success was minimal – only half of his reign did they secure top-half league finishes.
Take 1993-94 in isolation. Spurs finished 15th under Ossie Ardiles and life after Terry Venables – who became England boss – was compounded by a £600,000 fine, a ban from the FA Cup the following season and a 12-point deduction for 1994-95 by the Football Association for financial irregularities.
The deduction and FA Cup ban was lifted but if Levy has done one thing since coming in it’s that he’s revolutionised the club’s finances to the point where it’s a business model clubs across the globe are keen to mirror.
They only have one trophy to show for Levy’s time in charge – the 2008 Carling Cup victory
Levy has delivered a state-of-the-art stadium which is a model to clubs across the world
One of the criticisms of Levy is that he is more concerned with success off the pitch than he is on it.
Take the day he made the decision to furlough Tottenham’s non-playing staff earlier this year.
On the face of it the world’s eighth richest club opted to use a Government scheme to pay 80 per cent of the salaries of non-playing staff to avoid redundancies. Fans were outraged and the decision to use the scheme was eventually scrapped.
But on the day it was announced Spurs would be taking Chancellor Rishi Sunak up on his generous scheme, it was revealed Levy was toasting £4m in wages and a £3m bonus.
Talk about failing to read the room.
But it would be unfair to a man who is a lifelong fan of the club since going to his first game back in the 1960s to say he solely cares about the numbers in the club’s accounts.
He is a fierce negotiator, that much is true. He has long run a tight ship, Pochettino excelling on a fraction of the budget of their Big Six rivals, that’s true.
The Cambridge graduate struck gold with Mauricio Pochettino (middle) but lacks trophies
His decision to hire Jose Mourinho (right) shows Levy’s desire to end his barren trophy run
But turning to Mourinho strikes a different tone and in recent years Levy’s appetite for success has seen huge sums spent on attracting players.
In June 2019, Levy sanctioned a club record £54m move for Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele. It was lavish, coming so soon after the Champions League final defeat, but it evidenced Levy’s desire to win now, whatever the cost.
He’s brought Gareth Bale back to Tottenham, albeit on loan, made a shrewd move in bringing in Sergio Reguilon, Matt Doherty and Pierre-Emile Hojberg and has shown a willingness to give Mourinho what he wants.
Ultimately, for some fans their mind is made up. The ink has long dried on the ‘Levy Out’ placards and no amount of transfer market jiggery-pokery will turn the tide.
But there are others who feel there is more to the Cambridge graduate than the negotiator who got under Ferguson’s skin.
Hiring Mourinho was out of character it could be argued, a boss who threatens the pre-existing power structure that has long existed at the club. But two decades in and just one trophy to show for it says it all.
They say a leopard never changes its spots but if Levy is serious about lifting a Premier League title after 20 years, he may well have to.
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