Harry Redknapp’s Transfer History, 1984 to 2011: The Best Record in Football?

by Willie Gannon

He might not like being called a “wheeler-dealer” but Harry Redknapp is recognised as being the best English manager in the game today. He is the first English manager in 26 years to reach the last eight of the Champions League and is now firmly in pole position to take over from Fabio Capello after Euro 2012.

Rightly or wrongly, he has always had a reputation of being something of a Del Boy as far as the transfer market is concerned. However, does he have the best transfer record in English football?

Between playing and managing, ‘Arry’s career has lasted over 40 years. With a playing career that lasted for 15 years and 276 games combined and a managerial career that has seen him manage in almost every division, Redknapp has seen everything the game has to offer.

Now in the twilight of his career, ‘Arry is managing the biggest club of his career, Tottenham Hotspur, one of the great sleeping giants of English football.

Strangely enough, Redknapp began his career at the Spurs when, as an 11-year-old, he was brought to the club by chief scout, Dickie Walker. The love affair didn’t last too long though, as West Ham snapped the promising youngster up at 15 and away from Bill Nicholson, who was just beginning to mould one of English football’s greatest sides.

For the vast majority of his career, Redknapp was employed as a winger. An honest, skillful, industrious player, he played 149 times for the Hammers after making his debut at 17. From there he moved to Bournemouth for four years before a one game pit stop at Brentford, and then finally on to the NASL and the Seattle Sounders.

It was here in Seattle that Harry found the taste for management, acting as assistant manager for three years before becoming Bobby Moore’s right hand man at Oxford United.

His first job in management was at Bournemouth, but he only got the job at the second attempt. Despite being the club’s assistant manager, he was overlooked when David Webb moved on to Torquay.

However, with the team floundering at the bottom of Division Three under the new manager, Don Megson, the club was forced to act and sacked Megson thus handing the inexperienced Redknapp his first job and the task of saving the club.

Not only did ‘Arry save the Cherries, but Bournemouth pulled off the biggest shock of the FA Cup when they dumped Manchester United out.

Redknapp had pulled off two major coups in only his first season as a manager.

Even then he had an eye for a player, and his very first signing was to offer one of the game’s great journey men an in road into football, Steve Claridge.

Amazingly, between 1984 and 1992, Harry Redknapp only signed 19 players for Bournemouth and spent a massive £1.12million, but earned £1.77m during the same period.

Many of the players he signed were making their first forays into professional football. Looking back we can see that Redknapp had a keen eye for potential.

Steve Claridge, Sean Teale, Gavin Peacock, Efan Ekoku, Jamie Redknapp, Vince Bartram, and Jimmy Quinn are just a few names who all went on to bigger and better things after Bournemouth.

In 1987 the Cherries romped home as Division III Champions, but only lasted in Division II until 1989, when they were relegated.

In the summer of 1990, Redknapp was in Italy, watching the World Cup with friends when he was involved in a car accident which killed five people. A passenger in the vehicle, Redknapp was badly shaken and escaped relatively unscathed, only losing his sense of smell. He decided to take a break from football in 1992.

However, sometime later he returned to the fold in the guise of Head of Youth Development at West Ham.

In 1994 he was coaxed back into football with West Ham, who were struggling in the newly formed Premier League. Redknapp and Frank Lampard Sr. had been working tirelessly in the youth ranks at the Hammers and following Billy Bonds’ resignation in August, they were promoted to first team affairs.

Again Redknapp went to work in the transfer market, except this time he augmented his work there with the internal promotion of some of the brightest talents in English football.

Between 1994 and 2001 at West Ham, he signed 58 players for the Hammers, spending £52.09 million, bringing £77.01 million into the club.

Again his work in the market can be judged by looking back at some of the 58 players he signed in that seven-year period.

Mark Rieper, John Hartson, Eyal Berkovic, Stan Laziridis, Steve Lomas, David Unsworth, Paulo Di Canio, Marc Vivien-Foe, Jermaine Defoe, and Igor Stimac are all prime examples of good signings during his West Ham years.

Young players like Mike Marsh, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, and Rio Ferdinand all broke into the team under Redknapp too.

Of course there were some spectacular failures too, but they were few and far between. The worst signings are Paulo Futre, who barely kicked a ball in anger for a whole season as one of the highest paid players in the league, Florin Raduiciou and the dreaded Marco Boogers.

It is worth knowing that at this time that Futre and Raduiciou came with huge reputations and initially looked like great deals for the club, however, the reverse was to be the case.

Both players commanded wages of something like £2.5 million a season on top of huge signing on fees, and are real examples of foreign signings that just did not work in England.

During those five-and-a-half years in charge at the Irons, Redknapp guided them to finish 14th, 10th, 14th, 8th, and a brilliant 5th.

Considering the resources available to him at West Ham these results were superb, but again Redknapp was vilified with being a wheeler dealer and a risk taker; it is only now that we can look back and see how much of a profit he actually made in his dealings.

He was unceremoniously sacked in May 2001 after he spoke to a fanzine over the signing of a new contract with the club; the club’s chairman was extremely unhappy over comments Redknapp made during the interview.

He was not out of work for long and he moved to Portsmouth as Director of Football in the summer of 2001.

Ironically, Redknapp then took over as manager of the Division One club and guided them into the Premiership as Champions in 2002, replacing West Ham.

In just two years at Fratton Park, ‘Arry signed 41 players for £7.65 million and sold 41 players for £5.4 million.

Redknapp resigned as manager of Portsmouth in November 2004 in dispute over the owner, Milan Mandaric, bringing in a Director of Football to the club.

Even though Redknapp only spent two years at the club, he did manage to bring in some real quality, namely Dejan Stefanovic, Lomano Lua Lua, and Yakubu.

He then made the controversial move down the coast to local rivals Southampton. Redknapp had been brought in as a fire fighter, with the job to save the club from almost certain relegation, which he was unable to do.

In just one season at the club he signed eight players for £2.57 million, but sold 18 players for £16 million as he began a clear out at the club.

That did not last too long though as Harry resigned after Southampton brought in England rugby manager Clive Woodward in a technical role at the club. Many felt that the rugby supremo was being lined up to learn from the wily old manager before replacing him.

A couple of weeks later, Redknapp was back in charge of Pompey who were hurtling out of control towards the second tier of English football.

However, there was to be a big difference at Portsmouth this time around. Alexandre Gaydamak, had just taken over, had made huge sums of money available to Harry in an effort to establish Portsmouth as a force in the Premiership.

Pompey finished four points above relegation that season (’05-’06), but the next (’06-’07) they finished a club record ninth. That was followed up the following season with another record season when Pompey finished eighth (’07-’08)

The club was on the crest of a wave and also won the FA Cup in 2008.

That was the beginning of the end though as Alexandre Gaydamak stepped down from the board and withdrew his backing, and all of a sudden Portsmouth were in trouble.

Backed up with Gaydamak’s money, Redknapp was given permission to spend, and spend he did. £68.3 million left the club in just two seasons with only £29.07 million coming in while Redknapp held the reins.

As with his previous record, players of a high standard were brought to the club for cheap prices.

Niko Krancjar, Sulley Muntari, Glen Johnson, Papa Bouba-Diop, and Jermaine Defoe are very good examples of Premiership players who were brought in to aid Portsmouth’s cause.

It is worth noting that although Redknapp’s time in charge of Portsmouth ended in a deficit of some £40 million, the club has since gone on to sell many of the players he signed while he was there, giving the club a staggering £103,940,000 million in sales in just three years. A massive profit of around £30 million for the struggling club.

In October 2008 Harry Redknapp took over the sleeping giant and relegation bound Tottenham Hotspur after Juande Ramos’ ill fated reign.

Again ‘Arry was quick out of the blocks as far as the transfer market is concerned, and re-signed Jermaine Defoe and Robbie Keane as well as bringing in Wilson Palacios to bolster midfield.

The new signings worked a treat as the Spurs roared up the league and only missed out on Europe on the final day of the season following a 3-1 defeat at Anfield to Liverpool.

The following summer saw Tottenham strengthen their squad substantially by adding Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjcar, Sebastian Bassong, Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton to their ranks giving the Spurs a squad depth capable of challenging for Champions League positions.

A 1-0 win away to Manchester City in the penultimate game of the 2009/’10 season gave Spurs and Redknapp the 4th position and Champions League qualification they so thouroughly deserved.

They then embarked on their debut season in the cherished land that is the Champions League. Their first game was away to Swiss side Young Boys and somehow Spurs found themselves 3-0 down after just 20 minutes.

Remarkably, they managed to draw that match 3-3 and dispatched the Swiss champions at White Hart Lane to move into the group stage proper. They were drawn in Group A with defending champions Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, and FC Twente.

Spurs won the group and then beat AC Milan in the Last-16 to progress to the Quarter Finals. Something that no one would have believed when Redknapp took over the plummeting side in October 2008.

Harry Redknapp has had a remarkable career, wit over 1,000 games as manager, placing him in an elite band of men to achieve that rare milestone. While he has never managed a club that has challenged for trophies, he has become one of the best managers in the game through sheer hard work.

One thing that has really stuck with him throughout his career is his reputation for spotting a bargain.

Certain parts of his reputation are unfair, as he has had more successes than failures, and when you sit down and look at his transfer record over his 26 years as a boss you find that he has spent £226.93 million and recouped £230.37 million.

A quick comparison with Rafael Benitez has the Liverpool manager spending £210 million since 2004 and only accruing £125 million in the same period.

While in almost 25 years at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson has spent £432 million on 93 players and made some £250 million by selling 222 players in that same time.

Arsene Wenger’s record is quite impressive given the rewards he has managed to bring the club during his 13 years in charge.

Le Prof has brought 88 players to Arsenal at a cost of £235 million, and he has sold 169 for £201 million. A brilliant record, you’ll agree, to almost break even after 13 long years.

Given the resources available to Ferguson, Wenger, and Benitez, it is little wonder that the three clubs are constantly challenging for the top three positions in the league.

Redknapp’s record stands up for itself, a quite excellent record in the transfer market since 1984. He has never had the opportunity to manage a club with the resources to challenge for the title, but with Daniel Levy’s backing you get the feeling the club would rather challenge than sit in mid-table.

Spurs’ fans will be hoping that Redknapp continues to work magic in the transfer market. His astute signing of Rafael van der Vaart for just £8 million could turn out to be one of the signings of the season and already stands out as the bargain of the summer.

To put it in context, van der Vaart has 83 caps for Holland and played in the World Cup final, while Manchester United signed Bebe for £7.8 million without ever having seen him play!

Tottenham’s other signing’s this summer are also worth pondering. Sandro Ranieri was signed from Internacional in Brazil for £6 million. The Brazilian U20 captain was highly influential when they won the South American Champions League, and in only his ninth start of the season put in what many are calling as a man of the match performance against AC Milan.

Leaving us Redknapp’s last defensive signing; William Gallas. There is no doubting the ex-Arsenal player’s talent. Arsene Wenger had to spend £7 million to replace him and the defender has been one of the best performers in the Premier League since making his debut with Chelsea in 2001. His performances in Europe have been central to Tottenham’s good progress this term.

For the first time since the ‘60s, Spurs have a realistic chance of finishing in the top four every season for the next couple of years. Their squad is growing and getting stronger by degrees every year, and with Redknapp at the helm with his reputation for finding gems; Spurs can go further.

Wheeler-dealer? Nah, just good at what he does. Football.

19 Responses

  1. Assou-Ekotto says:

    Good article

    But we didnt equalise against Young Boys – we lost 3-2.

  2. Jol 5:5 says:

    Bobby Moore phoned ‘Arry in the U.S.
    ‘Arry wasn’t too keen about coming back to England, but Mooro said he had the job at Oxford.
    ‘Arry came back and it turned out to be Oxford City – not Oxford United.
    “On wet Tuesday nights I’d look along the dugout and think – whats’ he doing here – somebody should give him a proper job in football”
    See the Bobby Moore documentary on ESPN – legend.

  3. the_law says:

    Interesting article.

    I’m curious to know how you arrived at those figures for Rafa Benitez’ tenure?

    Seeing as though the figures for Redknapp include for the sales of players he bought after he was no longer there, I would like to know if the #125 million recouped from Rafa’s sales include for the players sold after he left?:
    - #50 mil for Torres?
    - #25 mil for Mascherano?
    - #6 mil for Benayoun?
    - #6 mil for Babel?
    - #10 mil (potentially) for Aquilani?

    All totalling another #97 mil. Added to the #125 mil in your article, makes it #222 mil, and a net PROFIT of #12 mil (Assuming that these players were not included in your initial #125 mil). Guess that might make Rafa the best “wheeler-dealer” manager, in this decade at least.

    And this is only the first team players that have been sold on, I have no idea what the reserves and younger players might have been moved on for.

    1. SpurredoninDublin says:

      That’s the real issue in Liverpool. Benitez was a good manager, but he had an American board, trying to do things the American way.

      Of course, the reaction from the scousers was to blame, Benitez, and then after a short honeymoon, Hodgson. Now “King Kenny” is being lauded.

      Problem is that you still have an American board, albeit a different one.

      Football is becoming sexy in the US, but most of us were brought up watching clubs where the Chairman was often the local butcher/baker/candlestick maker and he dipped into his own pocket sometimes to make ends meet. The US franchise system lacks this “soul” element.

      1. Robbie Deighan says:

        Benitez didn’t get much of the blame from Scousers, or Liverpool fans in general when it all went wrong. Most of it was reserved for Hicks and Gillett. Most Liverpool fans think fondly of Benitez and I know of many (although not me personally) who would love him back

  4. Good article. Well researched too.

    Harry will be up there with some of the top managers in the English game when he retires. Spurs will win a few along the way under his guidance, maybe not this year or next but at some stage in the near future.

  5. SpurredoninDublin says:

    Good Article. Not too sure about accuracy of the figures quoted because sometimes these are never published.

    I liked the description of Spurs as “sleeping giants”. Second time I have seen this in a blog today.

  6. A.M. says:

    Excellent article. Very enlightening! Always had a lot of sympathy for this man and after reading this, you can add a lot of respect on top of it.

    Cheers

  7. John says:

    This is a really great article. I never realised that Harry Redknapp had such a good record in his transfers and looking at this you have to wionder why he never got a big job before Spurs. I think the wheeler dealer thing has quite wrongly stood against him. Brilliant research.

  8. Ad says:

    Great article and I totally agree, Redknapp is a master in the transfer market.

    Signing Van Der Vaart was a masterstroke and as for the signing of Bale, well, if Harry chose to sell it could be the biggest profit ever made on a player.

  9. David G says:

    This doesn’t take into account player salaries though. He might have made a profit on sales vs players purchased but what did the wage bill look like at all those clubs before and after he left? I thought salaries were a big reason for Portsmouths troubles

  10. iggypopbarker says:

    the very spreadsheet you link disproves so many of the points you make in this article. I haven’t time to go through the whole thing so i’ll focus just on Bournemouth as an example.

    Claridge as the number one example of his great signings? he played 7 games and scored just once for Bournemouth, before being sold down the leagues to Weymouth because he wasn’t good enough (later, of course, he proved to be)

    The other list of great signings is problematic too – Jamie Redknapp was great, but he’s also Harry’s son. It’s stretching a little to credit him as an amazing eye for talent for noticing over the last 18 years that his kid was a pretty good talent.

    The standout 2 players in that list – Gavin Peacock and Efan Ekoku, who a couple of years later were very good Prem players – were signed by Redknapp for a combined £350k. That was a MASSIVE amount of money at that level in 1989/90, just part of the profligate spending that put Bournemouth into that cycle of debt they never recovered from. But back to the point – he spends big on two quality players, they do really well – so well that bigger, richer clubs come knocking. Yet shrewd Harry Redknapp, driver of a hard bargain and always able to get the best deal – by your own figures got just £150k for Peacock (£100k loss) and NO FEE AT ALL for Efan Ekoku (£100k loss). Pre-bosman that’s just incredibly bad business – and even selling them for the same he paid for them might have alleviated so much of the suffering the club was to go through.

  11. Vishal K says:

    David g has just stole my point: Salaries!! it’s all good quoting transfer fees but a player who comes in on a free still costs the club money and it’s exactly that that got Pompy into trouble despite the massive ‘profit’ made on selling players. The salaries were not sustainable for a club like that and harry would have been aware of this.
    Also one of the problem I have with the Benitez apologist who cite the ‘profit’ he made for ‘pool; to me this just signified the high turnover of players at the club under his reign which left the club never reaching it’s full potential except in one season before he left.
    Another small point Van der Vart was offered as a purchase by Levy harry didn’t really find that one.And it’s not like any one wasn’t aware of his quality(except maybe man U)

  12. VERYPOOR says:

    This is a very poor, one-sided article and I’m surprised The Bleacher Report allowed their name to be put to it.

    The figures in the article are reworked/distorted to preserve the idea that Harry is a great wheeler dealer. If you download the spreadsheet you can see that the £226m spent vs £230m received INCLUDES players sold AFTER Redknapp left Portsmouth. This privilege is not extended to Benitez, who should then by rights have the sales of Torres, Mascherano and others included in his ‘sales’ figure.

    A fairer picture emerges if we subtract those post-Redknapp Portsmouth sales figures from Redknapp’s figure in the spreadsheet. Here,
    if you take Redknapp’s last two appointments where he has had money (Portsmouth & Spurs) he has spent an eye-watering £163.5m and brought in just £59.2m. In other words a net spend in excess of £100m, before wages even enter the equation.

    It may be coincidence, but someone might argue this is perhaps why he leaves so many clubs in financial disarray (or perhaps dis’arry).

    This is a very, very poor article which deliberately twists the figures to fit the prejudices of the author.

  13. Dave says:

    Totally inept. Add up the right hand column in the Spurs spreadsheet and you will find it comes to approx. £26 million not £230 million.

  14. Liam Corbett Liam says:

    Harry wasn’t brought in from the wilderness when Bonds left, he was Bonds assistant manager the season before he took over, and many believe he stabbed his “best mate” in the back.

    Also, the sales include players that he didn’t buy. If we’re trying to prove an eye for talent surely it should list all his signings, how much he paid and how much he got back.

    Also fails to mention a few of his best deals – Berkovic and Bilic for very little (then a profit), and Iain Dowie+Keith Rowland+£1m = Trevor Sinclair. Now that was genius.

  15. Dave says:

    As many people have pointed out this whitewash job on Harry doesn’t mention wages. For a better researched examination of Harry’s career try this:

    http://swissramble.blogspot.com/2010/01/harrys-game.html

  16. dv says:

    the purchase and sale statistics should ONLY be for player that the manager has brought in during his time at the club. If they are sold after his departure, that’s fine, but they should not include players that were not purchased by him.

    I haven’t run those numbers, but I would suspect Wenger’s record would be top.

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