Given their retinue of stars and undoubted talent, it is perhaps odd that it is rare to hear news of a Tottenham Hotspur player actively seeking to leave the club.
After all, for all their swashbuckling football, European expeditions, and trophy challengers, Spurs remain one of the outsiders of the Premier League top six – always a dark horse, rather than a favourite.
Perhaps it is simply that the players enjoy working for Mauricio Pochettino, playing attractive football in an upwardly mobile team that seems to be improving with every passing season.
However, this is the 21st century and that isn’t always enough. It is therefore even more surprising that Spurs can keep hold of Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, Christian Eriksen et al. while also paying considerably less than their cup and title rivals in base wages.
World-class players at second-rate prices
Tottenham have world-class talent across the board on their squad sheet: the best striker in the country, contenders for the best playmaker and midfielder, and probably the best defensive unit to boot. Before this superhuman season, their keeper was always in the conversation with David de Gea for best in the league.
And yet, there isn’t a single Spurs player in the Premier League’s top ten earners. According to the Mirror, there are four players tied on £220k per week that round off the top ten but Spurs’ top earner is thought to be Lloris on around £120k per week.
Sizeable new contracts for star men Kane and Dele Alli are likely to be greater than that but may not break the £200k per week mark.
Though their wage bill is by no means small, maintaining such a talented squad while building a new stadium and remaining competitive in the league and Champions League is testament to clever financial planning by the club.
Protection against fans’ frustrations
As reported by football.london, Spurs supplement their restrained wage bill by offering the largest bonuses in the Premier League. This has a number of benefits.
Firstly, to some extent it may placate fans if Spurs don’t live up to their lofty expectations, as players’ earnings are directly linked to performances.
In the wake of Alexis Sánchez’ recent move to Manchester United, this is significant. He has been at his new club for a month, made almost £2 million in wages, and scored one goal in seven appearances – a rebound from a weak penalty.
It would be stupid to write him off, but fans are already venting their frustrations at the best-paid player in the history of English football.
This is not to suggest that fans wouldn’t still be annoyed if a player shanked over an open goal, cost Spurs a game and received £100k the next day but the effect may be lessened in the knowledge that the players aren’t on the same high level of pay as some of their contemporaries.
Performance bonuses are nothing new
It also serves as an extra form of motivation for the squad.
On the face of it, this seems faintly ridiculous. Players make incredible money for doing something they enjoy in the hope of winning trophies. In an ideal world, that would be enough.
This isn’t the case, though, and it hasn’t been for a long time. Famously, in 1974 the West Germany national team led by Franz Beckenbauer was close to a no-show at a World Cup tournament on their own turf due to a disagreement over bonuses.
Eventually, the DFB agreed to pay each member of the squad 60,000 Deutschmark if they went on to win the title, as they did. It was a smaller amount than some other teams were promised, it stood as proof that even the greatest glory in the game is not necessarily enough – money talks.
Asked by Bild if the bonuses were really necessary to motivate the squad ahead of the World Cup, Beckenbauer replied:
“Of course! The player needs to feel that he is worth something. Then he enjoys playing. Whenever I hear this s*** that we should play for the honour or for the eagle on our chests, that’s a joke. Nobody believes in this any longer.”
Staving off complacency
Whether it is right or not, Spurs’ players may just find themselves that little more motivated at the end of a long season when they know that each goal, each save, each point could be worth thousands of pounds at the end of the season.
It may well help to stave off the comfort level that the better-paid Arsenal squad down the road has been accused of slipping into.
Their star man Mesut Özil’s weekly wage is around three times larger than Spurs’ top earner after his recent contract extension, but it would be difficult to argue that he has been three times better than his opposite number Eriksen this season.
On a basic level, it also helps to keep costs down in the event of a disappointing season. If Spurs were to miss out on the top four and Champions League qualification, it would be a significant blow to their annual finances.
However, the effect of this would be lessened by a considerably smaller set of bonuses to be paid out at the end of the campaign. With their new stadium potentially costing £1 billion, every penny saved is a minor victory.
The future of wage structures
Paying footballers more when they play well and are successful is by no means a revolutionary idea.
But Spurs are making a good example of themselves in a time where world-record transfer fees, agent fees and wages are ratcheted up with every passing transfer window.
If they can keep their exciting squad together, there is no limit to what they can achieve. Their bonus system seems to be giving them a good chance of doing exactly that.
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