By Greg Stobart
It was only last August that Franco Baldini was being hailed as the consummate boardroom politician as he orchestrated Tottenham’s £110 million (€131m) spending spree in the summer transfer window.
His dream team with Andre Villas-Boas would complete the puzzle, making Spurs regulars in the Champions League. Maybe even title contenders.
Don’t worry about losing Gareth Bale, some said, we’ve sold Elvis and signed The Beatles.
As Spurs slumped to a 4-0 defeat to Chelsea last Sunday to leave a top-four finish a distant hope, not one of the seven internationals signed last summer featured at Stamford Bridge.
Some were injured, others were rested, but what’s certain is that none have made the impact expected after Spurs broke their transfer record three times last summer.
The most expensive, Erik Lamela at £30m (€36), has made just three Premier League starts and is now struggling with a long-term back problem. Roberto Soldado, the £26m (€31m) striker signed to fire Spurs into the Champions League, has scored only six league goals - just two from open play - in 23 appearances.
Villas-Boas was sacked in December and now it is Baldini’s turn to come under scrutiny as Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, contemplates another summer rebuild.
As technical director Baldini, ultimately, was responsible for the seven summer signings and has been blamed for their poor performances.
The feeling is that for all his personal skills, negotiating ability and boardroom schmoozing, Baldini lacks the ability to spot players that fit in to Spurs’ philosophy of signings players undervalued in the transfer market.
Roma were certainly relaxed about Baldini's exit, with sporting director Walter Sabatini calling the shots at the Italian club.
Levy’s family first made their money through the clothing chain Mr Byrite, but in Baldini he has employed Mr Buywrong.
The north London club have already started to restructure, with Ian Broomfield returning as a scout to the club he left by mutual consent in September 2012.
Broomfield had already agreed to join Tottenham’s bitter rivals Arsenal after leaving QPR before the personal intervention of Levy last week.
It could already prove a more important signing than any of the players that joined last summer.
Broomfield is credited with spotting and recommending some of the best players in the current Tottenham squad such as Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen and Sandro. He also recommended the club sign Luis Suarez in 2011 but the Uruguayan joined Liverpool due to the doubts of then manager Harry Redknapp.
Spurs may have been able to splash the cash last summer but, historically, they have relied on clever scouting to compete with clubs who can flex far more financial muscle.
In Broomfield they have a man on whom Levy can rely far more than Baldini on recent evidence.
One of the benefits of the director of football model is that it provides continuity during managerial changes and some joined-up thinking between the youth sides and the first team.
But the wrong man making the wrong decisions in that role can completely paralyse a club’s capacity to compete.
Baldini so far appears to be little more than a palm-presser who has blown an awful lot of money.
He also has a poor relationship with manager Tim Sherwood, who is also expected to lose his job in the summer, with Louis Van Gaal being lined up to take over at Tottenham after the World Cup.
Sherwood knows Baldini is vulnerable. Last Saturday, after noting “the silence is deafening” regarding assurances over his own future, Sherwood appeared to tout himself for Baldini’s role.
"There is a place for a technical director, someone who sees the club from the bottom to the top on the training field,” Sherwood said.
“A lot of clubs need to have people like that, otherwise you get no continuity and you end up buying seven to 10 players every window, and your turnover of players is too great."
Implicit is the suggestion that Baldini is not performing that function at the moment. And he looks set to pay the price at the end of the season.
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