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.
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.
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.
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.