Just when it seemed Tottenham had exhausted all manner of disappointments for one season, Daniel Levy has discovered top managerial targets can prove as maddeningly elusive as major trophies.
Erik ten Hag is the latest to reject the advances of Spurs, speaking to them via Zoom earlier this week before opting to stay at Ajax, who activated a clause yesterday to extend his contract until 2023.
It is the latest blow for chairman Levy and Steve Hitchen, the club’s technical performance director who has been leading the search for a successor to Jose Mourinho, sacked 12 days ago.
Daniel Levy was dealt a big blow in his search for a new Spurs boss as another name pulled out
Ajax boss Erik ten Hag agreed a contract extension with the Dutch giants on Friday morning
Hitchen has let it be known he wants a ‘young’ and ‘dynamic’ coach with a commitment to adventurous football.
Julian Nagelsmann of RB Leipzig was the first choice and, it appears, had offered some encouragement to Spurs when they initially sounded him out, earlier in the season, about taking over from Mourinho when that time came.
This was before Hansi Flick revealed his intention to quit Bayern Munich at the end of the season and herein may lurk a clue to the bizarre timing of Mourinho’s dismissal.
Bayern Munich-bound Julian Nagelsmann was the early favourite to take over at Tottenham
Flick’s exit was confirmed on April 17, a day after Tottenham’s draw at Everton, and Mourinho was sacked on the morning of the 19th but it was too late.
Nagelsmann had agreed to join Bayern and Levy turned to Brendan Rodgers, who has four years to run on his contract at Leicester, where he has an FA Cup final to look forward.
Rodgers is closer to trophies and the Champions League where he is. Leicester have a cohesive recruitment strategy and a fabulous new training ground — key factors for ambitious managers.
If he continues in the same vein, Rodgers will find the next offer to be more attractive than Spurs.
Spurs then turned to Leicester City’s Brendan Rodgers, who is not interested in the role
Ten Hag, who speaks German more fluently than English, may view the Bundesliga as the next step, when he leaves Ajax.
None of which will go down well at Spurs. In two years, they have slumped from Champions League regulars to Europa League hopefuls. Money is tight with a stadium to fund in a post- pandemic world, and the team looks badly in need of a rebuild.
Levy, with his fondness for squeezing maximum value from every single piece of transfer business, in or out, is not your man for a rapid rebuild.
Apart from managerial sackings, the business usually happens slowly at Spurs and always with the balance sheet in mind. They signed up to take taxpayers’ money from the furlough scheme. They signed up for the Bank of England loan. They signed up for the European Super League.
Levy is looking for a new manager after sacking the under-fire Jose Mourinho last week
Little wonder Harry Kane is quietly scanning for a way out and there is no stampede from fans to renew season tickets.
Levy does not crave popularity and yet his reputation is at an all-time low among rank-and-file supporters, some of whom are planning another protest before Sunday’s game at home to Sheffield United.
The chairman cannot afford another misstep. Crowd-pleasing appointments may have slipped through his fingers but there is no shortage of managers who would jump at the chance to take control of one of the great names of English football.
Ralf Rangnick, influential mentor to the new wave of German coaches, has emerged as a leading candidate. He is out of work and recommended by a close adviser to Levy.
Ralf Rangnick (above) has emerged as the leading candidate after the flurry of Spurs rejections
He also fancies the job, as does Rafa Benitez, although both are in their 60s and hardly fitting smoothly into Hitchen’s criteria for ‘young’ and ‘dynamic’.
Graham Potter and Scott Parker have admirers at Spurs but how would fans react to recruitment from the relegation battle? The same might be said for Chris Wilder and David Wagner.
Or Eddie Howe, dragging his feet over a proposed move to Celtic. Or Belgium boss Roberto Martinez. Any of these could be the right fit although some fans would find a reason to object.
Rafa Benitez (L) and Eddie Howe (R) are still in contention to take the Tottenham job
There was no great fanfare for Levy’s three most successful appointments: Martin Jol promoted from assistant, Harry Redknapp lured from Portsmouth or Mauricio Pochettino from Southampton.
Of more concern is the fact that some do not view Spurs as a reliable access point to the upper echelons of the Premier League.
Rodgers was Swansea boss when he offended Chelsea by distancing himself from their top job, saying he was trying to ‘build’ his career, not ‘destroy’ it.
Perhaps he thinks something similar about Levy’s Spurs. Perhaps he is not the only one.