The epic saga of Dimitar Berbatov's transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester United finally drew to a close in the early hours of Tuesday morning, but its repercussions could last into the New Year and well beyond. For some time Spurs have been vying with Everton for the mantle of English football's fifth best club, something that would have seemed a dubious honour ten years ago, but would now be seen by many as a badge of distinction in the era of international mega owners ushered in by Roman Abramovich at Chelsea. The events of the last twenty-four hours suggest that even that may now be out of their reach.
The fee of over £30m required to prize away Tottenham's record signing is defensible enough in itself, but the coda of the deal and startling events elsewhere seem to leave Spurs on the wrong foot with no opportunity to react until January when the transfer window re-opens. Twenty-four hours ago Tottenham were perceived by many to be claiming the moral high ground in their dealings with the sporting and financial behemoth that is modern Manchester United. They had reported United to the FA earlier in the summer for what they believed to be improper approaches to Berbatov while he was under contract to them and appeared to be willing to tough things out until the close of the transfer window somewhat in the style of Aston Villa over Gareth Barry. At the very least they might have hoped to obtain an apology from Manchester United, as they did from Liverpool accompanying the £19m sale of Robbie Keane, while getting them to pay top dollar. It seems that they have accomplished that last potential objective, but otherwise seem to be accepting a sizeable slice of humble pie in the shape of the season long loan of Fraizer Campbell, a player apparently not deemed ready by United for their own first team and who has been snatched from under the very noses of, err, Hull City, as well as agreeing to drop their pursuit of the European Champions over the Berbatov issue.
The arrival earlier in the day of prolific Russian international striker Roman Pavlyuchenko in a £14m deal from Spartak Moscow could be seen as something of a softening of the blow if you could take it in isolation from his reported comments of less than a month ago:
They (Spurs) are a club with great tradition. But since they are not a team playing in the Champions League we (Spartak, himself and his agent) are more likely than not to reject their offer. I love the Premier League and I would certainly like to play there. However, if I go to England, I would want to play for Arsenal or Chelsea.
We await the tales of his boyhood worship of Clive Allen with baited breath.
Picture of Dimitar Berbatov via Mtl_Shag's Flickr stream.
Tottenham could at least comfort themselves that, with the acquisition of Pavlyuchenko to go with Luka Modric and the highly rated (though, lest we forget, Arsene Wenger cast off) David Bentley, they appeared to have won temporary bragging rights over Everton whose key acquisition was the treatment-table friendly former Fulham star Louis Saha, but only minutes before Berbatov was pictured being chauffeured away from Old Trafford word broke that the new owners down the road at the City of Manchester Stadium had delivered a scorching statement of intent in buying Brazilian star Robinho from Real Madrid for a British record transfer fee that even Abramovich's Chelsea weren't willing to bankroll.
Spurs fans who for so long have been able to persuade themselves that a break into the elite four of the Premiership was just a couple of good decisions away had been bracing themselves for life beyond Berbatov, but with Abu Dhabi's riches suddenly poised to catapult a tumultuous Manchester City way over their heads and in amongst Fortress Big Four, much in the manner of Abramovich's surge into Stamford Bridge as Chelsea flirted with fiasco, hopes of anything beyond the UEFA Cup must seem more distant than ever. And worse, they have the next four months to dwell on it. Juande Ramos needs to prove fast that he's as good as we thought he was.