Tottenham Hotspur’s last minute swoop to acquire Clint Dempsey for around $9.6 million may have come as a surprise, but — on paper at least — the move makes a lot of sense for both parties.
No, Dempsey won’t achieve his UEFA Champions League dreams just yet, but the U.S. National Team star has joined a club with great ambitions and has an opportunity to continue to further his development, even at age 29.
“I’m very excited,” Dempsey told Spurs TV. “I’m looking forward to the challenge. To play under this manager (André Villas-Boas) and play for this team is a dream come true. I just want to make the most of it and work as hard as I can to get on the field and do well.”
In Dempsey’s first few seasons with Fulham FC, the former New England Revolution star had to fight for his spot, particularly with the club making several coaching changes. Recently, however, as Dempsey became the club’s top scorer the past two years — including 23 goals in all competitions last year — and was named Fulham ‘Player of the Season’ two years in a row, the Texan’s place in the starting eleven looked assured.
That new found safety — something Dempsey hadn’t seen since his time with the Revolution — could’ve led to complacency, but it never seemed to affect Dempsey. Still, Dempsey’s desire to move to a club whose ambitions more closely matched his own started becoming apparent through the 2011-2012 season, until he finally explicitly stated it in May. It seemed Dempsey had reached the ceiling of his possible success with Fulham last season.
It was time to move on.
Now Dempsey has found a club whose goals are the same as his: Champions League. With that step up in ambition, Dempsey will again have to fight for playing time, something that will force him to continue to perfect his game and perform at his best each day.
It’s not a new challenge for the six-foot-one midfielder/forward. Even when joining MLS, Dempsey, a Furman University product, was hardly the most heralded player, seeing seven players taken before the Revolution selected him eighth in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. Working his way into the line-up is a role he relishes.
“I’ve just got to work hard and get on the field and let my play do the talking for me,” said Dempsey to Spurs TV. “I want to play and I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work to get into this line-up and I just want to work hard and make the most of the season.”
Nothing is guaranteed for Dempsey at Spurs, but the opportunity for plenty of playing time is surely there. Tottenham’s major problem over the past few seasons has been finding strikers to finish off service from the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. The team recently acquired Emmanuel Adebayor and re-signed Jermain Defoe to a long term deal, but outside of those two, Dempsey is the only other striker on the squad.
With the lack of options up top, Villas-Boas even experimented with moving Bale to striker in preseason — a less than ideal solution considering the quality Bale brings to the left wing. Dempsey fills a big need for more quality and numbers up top.
Of course, Dempsey can also play throughout the midfield. Spurs have had their shares of injuries in that department in the past, so Dempsey’s versatility should prove an asset to both the club and himself in that regard.
“Clint Dempsey also provides us with tremendous versatility and he has produced magnificent performances for Fulham with 36 goals over the past two seasons and that shows just what a prolific and powerful player he is,” Villas-Boas told the official site of Tottenham Hotspur.
Just training everyday with the likes of Bale, Lennon, Adebayor, Defoe, Sandro, Scott Parker, Jan Vertonghen and William Gallas — all experienced internationals — should help Dempsey progress. It’s an atmosphere that bodes well for Dempsey and certainly won’t allow for any complacency.
“There are a lot of great players here,” said Dempsey to Spurs TV. “I’m just looking forward to playing and training with them and trying to fight for a spot on the team. I think it’s only going to make the team better, the competition, and I’m just looking forward to getting on the field.”
Dempsey can also look forward to a nice salary. According to Yahoo Sports, Dempsey’s deal is for $22.2 million over three years ($7.4 million per season), making him the highest paid American soccer player ever and besting his new teammate at Tottenham, former U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel’s $6.59 million per season.
It’s just another deserved record for Dempsey, who last year became the first American to score a hat trick in the Premier League and is the only American with 50 career Premier League goals.
If Dempsey brings that same goal-scoring touch to Spurs — who have started the season a disappointing 0-1-2 with just three goals for after taking fourth place and narrowly missing the Champions League in 2011-12 — Tottenham’s investment in the man who got his professional start in Foxborough will be prove worth it.