After a near-perfect season, Arne Slot made his first misstep.
Asked before Feyenoord’s Europa League tie with Roma what he thought of the Italians’ style of play, Slot said: ‘I respect Roma. Their style gets results, but I’d rather watch Manchester City or Napoli. I’m honest about it.’
Fair enough – unless Roma’s manager is Jose Mourinho, who has made a career of turning rival managers’ words into an advantage. So when Roma won 4-2 on aggregate, Mourinho chased Slot down the tunnel at the Stadio Olimpico, shouting: ‘Watch Napoli, you should watch us’ before running up the stairs, ranting about ‘ respect’ and redefine Napoli and the city.
Slot is unlikely to be honest next time, though he will soon have to pick up the phone with Mourinho. The Dutchman is high on Tottenham’s wish list and if he is offered the job, he would be wise to seek advice from the Portuguese, who managed Spurs from 2019-21. First nugget? Be careful what you say about the opposition manager.
Verbal errors aside, Slot’s reputation deserves a boost. Next to Ajax, Feyenoord is one of the traditional giants of the Dutch game.
Arne Slot is heavily backed to become Tottenham’s next permanent manager
Slot won the Eredivisie with Feyenoord, the second league title won by the club this century
He could be the perfect match for Spurs, but they will need to back him up with the right personnel or he could be doomed to follow the path of former manager Jose Mourinho (pictured)
The club of Ruud Gullit, Ronald Koeman, Robin van Persie and Henrik Larsson, Feyenoord won the European Cup in 1970 and the UEFA Cup in 1974 and 2002, as well as 16 Dutch titles. The problem is that only one of those domestic crowns came this century, in 2017. In the same period, PSV Eindhoven won 10 and Ajax nine. This season, however, Feyenoord made it two, winning the Eredivisie with two games to spare.
What Slot has achieved in Rotterdam is very impressive. Last season, Feyenoord were beaten by Roma (again) in the Conference League final and promptly lost key players Luis Sinisterra, Tyrell Malacia, Marcos Senesi and Fredrik Aursnes for a combined £60million.
Only half was spent on new players but Feyenoord still improved, with Slot’s 4-3-3 formation and high-intensity football enough to see off Ajax and PSV.
The slot is aided by a smart recruitment structure that buys low and sells high. Sinisterra joined Leeds for £21million for a fee of £1.5m. Malacia came through the ranks and moved to Manchester United for around £15m. Senesi was sold to Bournemouth for the same fee three years after his £6m move from San Lorenzo.
Next on the conveyor belt will likely be Santiago Gimenez. The 22-year-old Mexican forward was bought from Cruz Azul for £3m and has 23 goals in all competitions this term. Another significant profit coming in.
These players won’t be that fast under all coaches, which is where Slot comes into play. The 44-year-old changed the approach of Feyenoord, which turned a dull side into one of the most progressive in Europe. Midfielders Mats Wieffer and Orkun Kokcu and right-back Lutsharel Geertruida have made big strides under Slot and, along with Gimenez, are likely to be the next players to leave for big fees.
It comes as Daniel Levy (right) steps up his search for Antonio Conte’s replacement
Current interim boss Ryan Mason has put his name in the hat to become the club’s next boss
Meanwhile, Tottenham have ruled out a run to secure Julian Nagelsmann
After periods of drift and bitterness, Slot could be the man to bring Tottenham back to basics. With Martin Jol and later Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs became an exciting side built on the talent of young, hungry players.
This is also the way of Slots. The north Londoners and Slot could be a perfect marriage – but only if Spurs are prepared to put in place a structure that allows him to thrive.
Give him the right sporting director, and Slot could flourish – just like the Frank Arnesen/Martin Jol combination did in the early 2000s. That would involve chairman Daniel Levy taking a back seat to fundraising. Levy had always intended to do this, but somehow had never been able to do it.
If it’s going to be Slot, the Spurs must put the right people around him. Otherwise, the Dutchman could be doomed to go Mourinho’s way.
News/Image Sources: Daily Mail