As transfer windows go, the past couple of months have been right up there for Tottenham Hotspur as they succeeded through planning, tenacity and a little bit of luck.
This window brought The Super Six, which might stir up memories of The Magnificent Seven for Spurs fans but that summer of 2013 was very different.
Back then Tottenham were desperately trying to make up for the loss of Gareth Bale by splurging the world record fee they were going to get on a septet of players with no experience of the Premier League.
In 2020, Spurs were meticulously looking to improve problem areas and there was no desire to let any key players go. If anything they truly buried the summer of 2013 by bringing Bale home.
Transfer windows are planned for long before they arrive, often with communication lines put in place with clubs, agents and intermediaries in the previous window.
Tottenham’s summer window was shaped by regular reports from Jose Mourinho during the previous season, setting out exactly what he felt his team was lacking and what positions needed more strength or upgrades in.
Those reports were used in conjunction with the work of Spurs’ technical performance director Steve Hitchen and his scouting team as they sought to bring in Mourinho players, a very different task to five-and-a-half years of looking for the type of signings that fit Mauricio Pochettino‘s requirements.
On top of that, it all had to be done on a tight budget with the financial restrictions of 2020 hitting a club that operates with what it brings in.
Earlier in the summer as the enormity of lockdown hit the game, Levy had said: “When I read or hear stories about player transfers this summer like nothing has happened, people need to wake up to the enormity of what is happening around us.”
With that in mind, Spurs’ transfer business had to be deliberate, calculated and responsible.
The key criteria set out in the window for signings, other than their ability, was a strong character and leadership.
Tottenham had crumbled all too easily and frequently since the Champions League final defeat and confidence was brittle.
Mourinho wanted winners and strong voices in the dressing room to add to those of Lloris and Kane to deliver his message on the pitch and put the club back on the front foot.
The first target was Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, the 25-year-old Southampton captain, who Tottenham knew had a strong character and a winning mentality forged at Bayern Munich.
Talks had already taken place in January over a move for him and with the Dane’s contract in its final year and the Saints’ interest in making Kyle Walker-Peters’ loan move a permanent one, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy was able to engineer a double deal that essentially saw the north London club pay just £3million in cash terms for the midfielder.
Just seven days later Spurs signed former England goalkeeper Joe Hart on a free transfer to add another player with big experience to the camp.
The 33-year-old signed a two-year deal believed to be worth much less than Michel Vorm had been on before his departure the previous month and came with a strong character, winner’s medals and experience of the biggest games..
To complete the pre-season signings, Spurs moved for a defender Mourinho was a big admirer of in Wolves’ Matt Doherty.
The Irishman had been a player who had given Mourinho problems on the pitch as an opposing manager, not least when he scored at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last season.
Mourinho and Doherty are both represented by the GestiFute agency, headed up by ‘super agent’ Jorge Mendes.
While Mourinho wooed Doherty with videos of his new changing room and photos of the shirt he would wear, Spurs were able to secure the 28-year-old – the Premier League’s second most creative full-back over the past two seasons – for a bargain fee of just £13.5million without any add-ons.
Mourinho was delighted with that capture, paying tribute to Hitchen and Levy privately and publicly for getting the three deals for established Premier League players over the line before the season began.
Then came the double deal from Madrid 20 days later.
As he had always wanted to appoint Mourinho, so Levy has always dreamed of bringing Gareth Bale back to Tottenham Hotspur.
When the Welshman left in 2013, Levy inserted a clause into the deal that ensured Spurs would have first option on bringing him back.
That option expired in the summer of 2019 because simply Bale was financially out of the reach of his old club.
His wages at Madrid after his last new contract in 2016 are believed to be worth more than £600,000 a week before tax, more than three times that of Spurs’ top earner Harry Kane.
Then there was a hefty transfer fee to boot and every time Tottenham’s name was mentioned, Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett would simply laugh.
Then this summer everything changed. Bale’s relationship with Zinedine Zidane had soured to such a point that he was not going to play this season and, with just two years left on his contract, Madrid were desperate to get any of his wages off the books.
Levy sensed the opportunity and negotiated a loan deal, taking on roughly 40 per cent of the 31-year-old Welshman’s wages, with the option to keep him for a second year if Spurs and Bale were happy. That would take him to the end of his Real contract.
In a further show of Levy’s negotiating, when it was discovered that Bale would be out for a month after signing with a knee injury, it is understood that the Spurs chairman got Real to cover the north London club’s portion of his wages during that recovery time.
While not a priority area for Mourinho, the signing of a world class attacking talent who had won everything in Madrid – and a player he wanted to sign for Real back in in 2012 – was not one to pass up.
Despite his age, there was a sense inside Tottenham that Bale was something akin to a high performance sports car, kept covered up and unused in a garage for the past year. All he needed was warming up and he could help forge a mouthwatering attacking trident with Kane and Son Heung-min, potentially the Premier League’s best.
For his part, Bale was a big driver in the move, ensuring other interested parties were given a polite “no” as he looked to return home to a place where he knew he was loved.
However, it was not just Bale who Tottenham had hearts in their eyes for.
The club had been tracking Sergio Reguilon for some time and his loan spell at Sevilla, where he starred as they won the Europa League, only cemented that interest.
Mourinho was also a big fan, keeping track on developments at his old club, and a decision was made that while Spurs were not actively looking for a left-back this summer, if Reguilon became available at a decent price then they would move.
They received word that the 23-year-old Spaniard would be available for around £28million but that low price tag came with a catch.
Real insisted that he could only leave the club with a buy-back clause which could see them bring him back in either the summer of 2021 or 2022 at a £15million profit for whoever bought him this summer.
That clause put off Manchester United but such was the admiration for Reguilon at Spurs that they felt he was such an upgrade at left-back in the short-term that they had to make the move and hope that the Spaniard fell in love with the club and decided to spurn any Madrid advances in later years.
He was third choice at the La Liga giants and there are no guarantees he will get the minutes in later years in Madrid that Spurs will give him.
Tottenham made the move and having researched the profile of the player, soon witnessed first hand the strong character and confidence they had sought in all of their signings this summer despite him being the youngest of the new bunch.
Chugging away in the background was the long-running search for a striker, a thorn in the club’s side since Fernando Llorente’s departure 14 months before.
While happy with the moves already made, Mourinho began to grow vocal behind the scenes about the failure to bring in a natural front man once the season had begun as he realised he was going to have to overplay an unfit Harry Kane, who had missed much of pre-season in self-isolation.
Tottenham’s problems in bringing someone in came either through the cost of certain strikers, their wage demands or a lack of desire from prospective signings in challenging Kane, with the knowledge that their game time would be greatly reduced.
Spurs made enquires across the board for front men. They spoke to clubs or intermediaries about Southampton’s Danny Ings, Torino’s Andrea Belotti, Metz’s Habib Diallo, Salzburg’s Patson Daka and Benfica’s Haris Seferovic.
They also considered homegrown strikers Callum Wilson and Ollie Watkins, but were put off by the fees the two players eventually went for.
In the end the club settled on two players. Mourinho wanted another Benfica player in Carlos Vinicius and the back-up option was Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik.
That was when luck – in Tottenham’s case – came into play as Benfica failed get through the Champions League qualifying rounds.
The Portuguese club suddenly needed money and Vinicius’ price tag fell from the £50million Spurs were quoted earlier in the summer.
Vinicius, another player represented by GestiFute, was snapped up on loan for £2.7million with an option to sign him permanently for £38.2million if the move worked out.
The 25-year-old Brazilian fit the Mourinho mould perfectly. At 6ft 3ins he can play the target man role, having converted from being a centre-back earlier in his career, and his ability to play out wide as well meant more tactical flexibility for Mourinho and likely more minutes for the attacker.
He was also coming off a breakthrough season in his career as joint top scorer in Liga NOS, bagging 24 goals and 13 assists in all competitions. His appearances in the Champions League helped make his work permit a formality.
Mourinho’s whole demeanour changed publicly as talks reached their conclusion for Vinicius who he felt was a key element to balancing his squad.
The window was not all about successes though.
The club had wanted one last cherry on top of the cake in a centre-back who could play on the left of the pairing.
Hitchen flew to Italy to try to negotiate a deal for Inter Milan’s Slovakian Milan Skriniar and interested was also registered in Juventus centre-back Merih Demiral.
However, Inter would not budge on a £45million price tag for Skriniar, who was keen on the move, while Tottenham would only go as far as £32million plus add-ons and that £13million difference was never bridged, despite the north London club offering various players in exchange, including Juan Foyth.
Despite speculation, Christian Eriksen was never offered to Tottenham during the talks with the Dane looking to prove himself to be a success in Italy.
Juventus rebuffed the interest in Demiral and a back-up option in Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger was judged to be too difficult on various levels to get off the ground.
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The window closed without success in that regard, although Tottenham are considering using the extra domestic window to bring in Swansea’s Joe Rodon.
The 22-year-old Welshman would not be available for the club’s Europa League squad and is very much considered to be one for the future.
Tottenham are yet to make an offer for Rodon but are considering a move later in the bonus window, which closes on October 16.
When it came to departures, following the exits of Jan Vertonghen, Michel Vorm and Kyle Walker-Peters, Foyth and Ryan Sessegnon left on loan to Villarreal and Hoffenheim respectively.
Despite signing a new three-year contract in the process, Foyth’s loan move has an option for a £13.5m permanent move with the new contract protecting Spurs if he or the Spanish side decide against a longer stay.
Sessegnon was deliberately sent to a club that would offer him regular minutes as a left-back or wing-back and the Bundesliga outfit did so. They were chosen over various Premier League sides and others across Europe.
Spurs and Mourinho retain high hopes for the 20-year-old in the long-term to challenge Reguilon for Tottenham’s left-back spot once he has his confidence back and develops in the role.
Moves were rebuffed for Tanguy Ndombele and Dele Alli over the summer and a decision made to keep Serge Aurier to battle with Doherty and the Ivorian has responded in kind with his performances since.
There was frustration in being unable to move Danny Rose on from the club.
The 30-year-old, who is not training with the first team, has eight months left of his contract but, despite some interest from Porto, there was no move for the left-back.
Unless he lowers his ambitions to a Championship club or one in a country whose window has yet to close, the Netherlands for instance, then he will either have to sit on the sidelines until January or a mutual decision over his contract will have to be made.
Goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, who has fallen to third choice stopper since Hart’s arrival, was also available for a move but one did not materialise on deadline day.
With Tottenham having two too many ‘non-locally trained’ players in their Europa League squad, the Argentine and Gedson Fernandes are likely to be the two left out by Mourinho for the group stages of the competition.
For Gedson in particular that will present a problem when it comes to game time. The 21-year-old has struggled to find a defined role under Mourinho, having been played at right-back and in various midfield positions without much success.
It was not a perfect window for Tottenham but it was an incredibly good one as they fixed problems across their squad on a tight budget.
Many other clubs spent far more than the north London outfit but Spurs were methodical and very deliberate in their moves, bringing in players with far greater values than they cost.
There is now a real buzz around the club, an excitement that they have assembled the best Tottenham squad of the modern era and a belief that Mourinho can lead them to trophies this season.
If they do then they will look back on this transfer window as the months when their best-laid plans started to take shape.