Belfast Telegraph

Baldini must make summer signings shine at Tottenham Hotspur or he's out

By Sam Wallace

What little power Andre Villas-Boas commanded among the Tottenham Hotspur hierarchy had crumbled away by the time that the club made the swift decision yesterday morning that time was up for the modern young coach and his big ideas.

The call was made by chairman Daniel Levy and the technical director, Franco Baldini, who wielded more power than the now departed Villas-Boas.

It is the man who bought the players this summer who has survived, but Baldini will be under no illusions that it will be him next if the new manager is unable to coax the kind of performances from the squad that includes £108m of new players.

For a club that started the new season on a crest of a wave after an unprecedented level of investment in seven new players, the falling away since then has been dramatic. Just 106 days after Gareth Bale's departure to Real Madrid, his former manager has been sacked and Spurs find themselves looking at an interim appointment.

Tim Sherwood will take the team against West Ham in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals tomorrow night, although it has not yet been decided whether the technical director will take over for the rest of the season, or confirmed that he even wants to.

Villas-Boas's long-term successor will have to buy into the vision created by Baldini and Levy, which has at its heart the seven players bought in the summer. That policy of reinvesting the money from the Bale transfer simply has to be made to work. Those players will have to play.

Baldini and Villas-Boas had come to disagree over the quality of those signings, especially the Argentine Erik Lamela, who arrived for a record £30m fee from Roma, the former club of the Spurs technical director.

Baldini, Fabio Capello's general manager during his time in charge of the England team, is convinced of the qualities of Lamela. That tension has been growing for some time.

By the last few days of his time in charge, Villas-Boas found himself isolated within the club, with just Luis Martins, Jose Maria Rocha and Daniel Sousa, the Portuguese assistants he brought with him, still part of the inner circle.

His relationship with Steffen Freund, his German assistant, had become so testy that the two men no longer sat alongside one another on the bench. Yet it was the deteriorating relationship with Baldini that was the eventual tipping point.

Of the seven players who came to Spurs in the summer, only Roberto Soldado was expressly Villas-Boas's choice. The £26m forward has struggled, especially in the league, and at 28 does not fit the age profile of the club's buying policy.

Having originally tried to placate Villas-Boas, who has a tendency, from his Chelsea days, to imagine the world is against him, Baldini was among those who agreed yesterday that he had to go. The manager's future has been a matter of discussion at the club for some time, with the only significant obstacle to his removal the question of who would replace him.

Curiously, Villas-Boas had never fallen out irrevocably with his players, as he did with many at Chelsea. While there were a few grumblers, like Emmanuel Adebayor, completely frozen out until half-time in the 6-0 defeat to Manchester City, the Spurs players liked and accepted his methods.

The team were only five points off fourth with 16 games played but the scale of the defeats to Manchester City, and then Liverpool on Sunday, has contributed to Villas-Boas's sacking.

His hint at Sunday's post-match press conference that the new players have not been his choice further imperilled him.

His criticism of the home fans at White Hart Lane after the win over Hull City has not helped, given how conscious Levy and the club are of the way they are perceived by supporters. The unflattering perception of the way his team played, scoring just 15 goals in 16 league games, has also contributed.

A manager under this kind of pressure might have handled the scrutiny better, but Villas-Boas decided to meet it head on, confronting critics in the press and reacting to comments from the former chairman Alan Sugar. Whatever the merits of this approach, it has evidently not gone down well with the Spurs board.

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