20 years of Daniel Levy: The man with the plan?
Daniel Levy of Tottenham watches from the stands during the FA Cup match between Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur at St Mary's Stadium, Southampton on Saturday 25th January 2020. (Photo by Jon Bromley/ MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Daniel Levy has overseen 20 years as chairman of Tottenham Hotspur - in this prolonged period, he has managed to transform Spurs from mid-table strugglers, into a 'top six' side.

The impact he has had on the club is second to none, he will go down in the history of Tottenham as one of the most influential powers in their footballing community. 

Before Levy was appointed chairman of Spurs, the clubs' highest finish in the Premier League was seventh and for five of the past 10 seasons, they failed to break into the top half of the table.

However, it has not been all sunshine and roses, with Levy coming under heavy criticism for a lack of spending across multiple transfer windows.

  • The beginning

The task at hand for the ENIC Group - after purchasing ownership from Lord Alan Sugar - was a difficult one and it was in the hands of Levy to make it a success.

In his first few seasons, the impact he had on the football club was limited, they remained in and around the mid-table mark and not a lot had changed off the pitch.

Levy's first experience of success was the appointment of Martin Jol, this managerial placement saw Spurs finish fifth in back-to-back seasons; their highest placed finishes in the Premier League era at the time.

The following season was a disappointment in terms of the league, finishing 11th under Juande Ramos, however, they did win the League Cup against bitter rivals Chelsea in a fiercely contested final.

There was plenty of reason for Tottenham fans to be optimistic, following two Europa League finishes and their first piece of silverware in nine years.

Harry Redknapp was appointed Spurs manager by Daniel Levy after the shortcomings of Ramos and this was another successful move by the Tottenham chairman, although, at the time the measure was seen as desperate.

Champions League finish came in Redknapp's second season as manager, much to the delight of Levy and supporters across the globe.

This was the birth of Spurs as a European force in the modern football era, a feat many did not foresee.

  • The second decade

One trophy in 10 years was far from impressive for a club of Tottenham's stature and history. 

Levy had definitely improved the quality and the ambition in his first decade at the club, a combination of bargain signings and managers performing meant the club were ready to aspire for the next level. 

After Redknapp's success, Levy failed to capitalise on the progress made in his next two managerial appointments.

Both Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood did not manage to qualify for the prestigious Champions League and only lasted a single season each.

This raised questions over whether Spurs' ambition to fight for a top-four spot was realistic, on the basis that they didn't compete financially in the same way Manchester UnitedManchester City, and Chelsea did.

The hiring of promising Southampton manager, Mauricio Pochettino was the start of something special, the Argentine led Spurs to their first-ever Champions League Final and was adored by fans.

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Pochettino transformed Tottenham into title-contenders on a very limited budget as they finished in the top three for three consecutive campaigns.

Yet still, the lack of silverware for what is arguably one of Spurs' best ever sides was painstaking for fans, and the lack of spending despite the on-field successes frustrated fans.

A poor run of results saw Pochettino sacked in an unexpected turn of events He was replaced, surprisingly by Jose Mourinho, as Levy looked to address the issue of silverware.

  • Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Aside from the recent successes on the field, Levy's biggest achievements as chairman have come in a financial and commercial capacity.

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The Northumberland Development Project was announced in 2008 and involved improving its training facilities while also building a new stadium.

After many issues around the stadium, it never started being built till 2015, there were further delays in construction and this meant the stadium wasn't opened till April 2019.

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is renowned for its state-of-the-art facilities and first-ever retracting pitch, helping Levy broker a 10 year deal with the NFL.

NFL's contract with the club entails at least two matches being held per season, with the league paying Spurs per fixture played at their ground.

This grants the club more exposure across the world, as fans who may not follow football are introduced to the remarkable facilities Tottenham have, useful for a sport that attracts millions of viewers.

The 62,000 stadium is one of the best stadiums in the world, it is fit for a club with Spurs' talent and vision.

  • Failure to invest in the squad

For as much Levy has done, he has not been exempt from criticism, he has had to take the brunt of much of the frustration the lack of silverware has created.

He has been labelled as unambitious, stubborn, an opinion he has publicly refuted - his lack of investment in the squad, particularly under Pochettino, doesn't do his cause any favours.

When Jurgen Klopp was adjusting to life at Anfield, Pochettino secured Spurs a third-place finish after a hugely successful season, he followed that up with an even better season the next, coming second.

It was a young squad with unimaginable potential, supporters believed with a few shrewd additions, they would have been capable of bringing the glory days back to N17.

Levy was the only chairman in Europe to not make a signing in the summer of 2018, in remarkable fashion Pochettino still managed to lead his side to an unprecedented Champions League Final - ironically against Klopp. 

Fast forward to 2020, Liverpool went on to lift their first Premier League in 30 years, while the North London finished a difficult season in sixth.

While Spurs stood still their rivals left them behind, reaping the rewards for investments in the market, crucially improving on the foundations they built.

Many fans ridiculed Levy for his antics in the window, they pointed at the success of Liverpool following the trust entrusted in him by his board - it proved a stark reminder of what could have been.

  • Financial success

The business model that is Tottenham Hotspur has been largely successful thanks to Levy's great economic and business knowledge. 

He has quite the reputation for being a very tough negotiator, undoubtedly helping him sign steals in the market, while also generating healthy transfer fees for his players.

Selling Dimitar Berbatov to United for three times his original fee, Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a world-record sum, and Kyle Walker to City for an impressive £45m all rank highly in Levy's best negotiations.

Perhaps even more impressive, are the purchases of Hugo LlorisChristian Eriksen, and Luka Modric for cheap prices, relative to how they went on to perform for the club.

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The past five years have seen Tottenham become the highest revenue-generating team in the capital, progress envisaged by few during Levy's tenure.

A staggering announcement of £460.7m in operating profits for 2019 - helped by their amazing UCL run - meant Spurs broke the record for revenue generated in a single year.

Although Levy - the longest-serving chairman in the league - has transformed the club, he has not been exempt from criticism.

The lack of spending in transfer windows became a frustration for fans, especially after the performances put out on the pitch and the health of the clubs' finances.

Supporters questioned Levy's ambition after going two consecutive summer windows without making a signing, becoming the first Premier League club to do so.

Coupled with the spending of their rivals and the improvement in the quality of squads across the division, the pressure was put on Levy to back the club in the market.

Despite the criticism, Levy's handling of Tottenham's finances has meant he has built a sustainable culture, consisting of low wage bills and healthy revenues, only further anchoring Spurs' status as a powerhouse.

At a time where Coronavirus has affected teams revenues massively, the club have taken out a £150m loan from the Bank of England, in a shrewd move by businessman Levy.

This suggests with the spending over the past summer that any more big-money signings look very unlikely, allowing a now or never story to play out for Spurs' silverware hopes.

  • Commercial power

Central to the improvement in Tottenham's financial capabilities is how Levy has grown the commercial brand.

Several factors have contributed to building up the image that we see of Tottenham Hotspur and Levy has pulled the strings to do so.

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The signing of Son Heung-Min from Bayer Leverkusen has been one of Levy's best recruits in recent years.

Not only has he progressed into becoming a world-class winger, forming a deadly partnership with Harry Kane, he has also become a global superstar.

Considered one of Asia's best exports, Son has grown a core base of supporters in his native South Korea, this has created a great commercial buzz around the club.

Week in, week out, fans flocked to both White Hart Lane and Wembley Stadium to see Son, contributing to record revenues.

Even more so, the resigning of Bale has also generated a similar buzz, the Welshman who endured a tough time of late at Real Madrid is still regarded as one of the world's best players.

Although merely a loan, it signalled the club's intent to challenge for trophies, acquiring a player of Bale's profile.

  • All or nothing: Jose Mourinho

The appointment of Jose Mourinho had all eyes in the footballing world firmly fixed on Tottenham Hotspur, the sacking of the "magic" Mauricio Pochettino sent shockwaves through the club.

In what was a whirlwind of events - captured on the clubs' All or Nothing Amazon documentary - the choice of Mourinho did not feel very 'Spurs', or even very 'Daniel Levy' in that respect.

Such a high-profile manager who has a track record for success and winning trophies was a first for many years at the club and it was a big signal of intent from Levy.

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The big personality that is Jose Mourinho was fitting for the blockbuster Amazon documentary, it was able to capture his character perfectly and maximised the number of viewers drawn.

Spurs supporters and football fans alike would have enjoyed such an insight into the club and how everything operates in the sport behind closed doors.

The documentary tied perfectly into what Levy was attempting to do in a commercial aspect at the football club, with the new stadium, a manager of Jose's calibre, and the quality of the squad, there couldn't have come a better time for it.

  • The third decade

Entering March, Spurs have slumped into ninth - nine points behind a Champions League place, albeit with a game in hand.

Suffering from an inconsistent campaign, the club recorded an emphatic victory away to Manchester United and also impressively beat Pep Guardiola's runaway leaders earlier in the season.

The mentality appears to be stronger under the leadership of Mourinho, however, being unable to see out victories in the latter stages of games have cost Tottenham crucial points.

Daniel Levy will be proud of the leaps and bounds Spurs have made under his command, the ups and downs have been plenty but his project continues to make strides.

The primary objective for Levy this campaign will be to win some silverware in order to have something to show for all the hard work being put in - both on and off the pitch.

Coincidently, a Carabao Cup final against holders Manchester City awaits Mourinho's men, as Spurs fans will have their sights firmly fixed on a return to Wembley in the offing.

Ending up on the wrong end of a 5-4 thriller against Everton in the FA Cup 5th Round was a huge blow, reducing the odds of the trophy drought coming to an end.

However, the Europa League remains a route for Tottenham to end the curse and also qualify for the Champions League.

Beating Wolfsberger AC 4-1 in the first leg of the Round of 32 should see Spurs comfortably through to the last 16, and in Mourinho, they have a manager with the necessary credentials to go all the way in a tournament he has already won.

Results in the league have been less than impressive, with Spurs only picking up nine points in the entirety of 2021, with six of those coming against the bottom two teams in the league.

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This has led to increasing pressure on Jose Mourinho with doubts over his long-term future rising, the season remains precariously in the balance with particular results in the calendar perhaps due to be the deciding factor in Levy's decisions.

As seen with the manner of Pochettino's sacking, Levy is not one to shy away from the big decisions due to fears of repercussion or judgement amongst fans and the media.

The remainder of the season could play a huge part in the long-term vision he has for Spurs and allow him to clearly define his ambition.

An area Tottenham have struggled with this season has been defence, with Mourinho clearly unhappy with the options at centre-back in particular.

Reinforcements in the Transfer Market will be crucial, the amount spent and the targets brought in will be scrutinised highly come the end of the window.

With his track record of opting not to invest in the squad at key periods, it will be interesting to see how Levy responds to the situations over the course of this campaign.

It is near impossible to envisage a future for Levy elsewhere, the boyhood Tottenham fan is very invested in the club and will be focused on achieving great things at N17.

Due to its sustainability, the Tottenham business model is one that has provided the club with great financial stability, regardless of the outcome of this season, they will remain one of the top powerhouses in England for many years to come.

This season has the potential to be defining in regards to Tottenham's trophy drought, with key players such as Kane and Son entering their prime years will their heads turn if they attract interest from other clubs? 

One thing for certain as things stand is that Spurs are in a healthy position as a football club, much of that is due to Daniel Levy.

He has been largely successful over the years and is looking to build on that in this coming decade, breaking records and setting new achievements.