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The Man Who Ruins the Premier League’s Deadline Day for Sport

Tottenham’s Daniel Levy looks like a movie villain, and acts like one at the negotiating table

Getty Images
Getty Images

In Spectre, there’s this short Bavarian dude in a Nehru suit named Franz Oberhauser. Director Sam Mendes squeezed Col. Hans Landa into this constricting Oberhauser character, which was just a watered-down version of the beautifully crafted, preening Mr. Silva from Skyfall, a complicated villain who never explicitly announced himself as a mastermind. Oberhauser, on the other hand, was like a Google image collage of “mastermind.”

Standing there in a dimly lit bunker filled with stooges tapping away on computers, busy at work planning assassinations or trafficking narcotics on the dark web or whatever, Oberhauser does a rundown of all the bad things that happened to James Bond over the past three movies, taking ownership of all of it. If he’d said “the economic crisis of 2008? All me, James,” it wouldn’t have come as a surprise.

But what if, instead of trying to destabilize democratically elected governments, those suits were monitoring market prices for attacking midfielders who could drop straight into a first team? What if they were closing in on a dynamic winger-forward hybrid who could pick up the ball near the center circle, black out for six-ish seconds, and come to somewhere near the top of the box to challenge the goalkeeper? Suppose they eventually settled on a dynamic winger-forward hybrid that Everton already had their eyes on.

Also, what if Oberhauser was bald?

This is how I imagine Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy. A comically obvious Bond villain. It’s partially a reflection of his heavy-handed negotiation practices, but also of the eerie sense you get that his whole public persona is a thin veneer. Like he Googles “what do normal non-serial killer people do with their hands,” at least once a day.

Because of the money and number of parties involved, the transfer window inevitably produces distinct winners and losers. You win by bridging an injury crisis with a new center back, or by landing that 20-goals-a-season man, or finding the right string-puller to synthesize a competent attack. And you lose by, well, not doing any of those things. Winning big usually means ruining someone else’s day in the process, which is something Levy seems to do often.

He did it in 2011 when he warded Chelsea off of Luka Modric, whom he sold to Real Madrid for a grip the following year. He did it again in 2013 when Madrid were keen on Gareth Bale and Levy was like, fuck you, break the world transfer record, and sold Clint Dempsey to the Seattle Sounders for way more than he was worth that same summer. Last year, he got £15 million out of Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande for wantaway midfielder Paulinho, who’d played only 15 games in the Premier League that season. He blocked a loan move for eternal misfit Emmanuel Adebayor to West Ham, seemingly just to be petty.

To the extent that you can trust transfer news — especially on deadline day — Moussa Sissoko was supposed to be an Everton player on Wednesday night. The club had reportedly met Newcastle’s £30 million asking price, and a private jet was all gassed up and waiting to take Sissoko to Merseyside to finalize the deal. But according to Sky Sports’ Vinny O’Connor with midnight fast approaching, Everton manager Ronald Koeman suddenly couldn’t get hold of the Frenchman, and the Toffees found themselves wondering who was to blame.

Previously unwilling to go a red cent over £18 million, Levy — probably while doing a dramatic turn in a massive swivel chair while stroking a house cat — had ponied up to match Newcastle’s asking price. Tottenham could offer Sissoko the chance to play Champions League football where Everton couldn’t, and Sissoko was taking pictures with a Spurs shirt shortly before the window closed.

It was Levy, Everton. It was always Levy. The author of all your pain.