Potential sales of Walker, Dier raise questions over Spurs' ambition
This is a strange summer for Tottenham Hotspur.
On the one hand, the club is preparing for the new season on the back of their highest league finish since the 1960s, and in Mauricio Pochettino, the team has one of the brightest and most impressive young managers in the game to guide them to the next level.
That next level, the final step Spurs must climb, is the one where the trophies are, and Tottenham have been beaten to silverware too often in recent years by teams that are not as exciting, as promising or as young as Pochettino's players.
But as Spurs get ready to head to the United States for their preseason preparations, where they will face Paris Saint-Germain, Roma and Manchester City in the International Champions Cup, the flip side of their positive outlook is becoming evident.
No major signings have yet arrived at the club, which will spend next season playing home games at Wembley Stadium due to the reconstruction of the new ground at White Hart Lane, and Kyle Walker's departure to Manchester City sets up the prospect of two senior players leaving for Premier League rivals.
Make no mistake, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has put the squeeze on City by making them go way above their initial valuation of Walker to seal a £50 million deal.
If Manchester United continue to pursue midfielder Eric Dier, Levy will expect at least the same fee for the England international, ensuring that Spurs boost their bank balance by £100m with the sale of just two players.
City's need for Walker is arguably greater than United's for Dier, simply because United manager Jose Mourinho has gettable alternatives to Dier, who remains his No. 1 choice.
But Dani Alves snubbed City and sealed a surprise move to PSG earlier this week, so City manager Pep Guardiola suddenly found himself without a senior right-back, having allowed Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta to leave the Etihad at the end of this past season.
So a deal had to be struck with Spurs to get Walker on board before City depart for their own U.S. tour next week.
But the reality for Spurs is that the only deal that really suited them was the one that would have seen the "Not for Sale" signs go up at the club.
It is not difficult to understand why both Walker and Dier would be tempted to leave, and why Pochettino would be open to their departures.
Walker, the England right-back, was no longer a first choice at Spurs due to the late-season form of Kieran Trippier -- who ironically was developed as a youngster by City, but deemed not good enough to make the grade at the Etihad. Walker, the former Sheffield United defender, wants to move on for regular football and the hefty pay rise on offer at City.
Pochettino regards Trippier as better-suited to the way the manager wants Tottenham to play, so Walker became expendable.
In a similar fashion, Pochettino can comfortably name a starting XI without Dier, even though his versatility ensures that he is not overlooked too often. But Pochettino prefers Victor Wanyama in the holding midfield role that Dier regards as his best position, and if Spurs operate with a back four, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen will always get the nod at centre-half.
Dier grew up in Portugal as a United supporter, and the attraction of moving to Old Trafford to play for Mourinho is obvious.
There are two crucial issues for Tottenham, however, that should have decided the outcome of both the Walker and Dier situations.
First, it makes little sense to strengthen a rival by selling them a player with a proven pedigree in the Premier League. And secondly, if Spurs are to make that climb to the next level, they will need to strengthen their squad rather than diminish it.
Selling Walker, and then Dier, will weaken Pochettino's squad, even if they raise £100m by letting them go.
As Spurs have discovered in recent seasons, recruitment is an unpredictable business. For every Dele Alli and Alderweireld, there has been a Vincent Janssen or a Moussa Sissoko.
Raising a transfer fund by selling Dier and Walker might ease the financial pressure of building a team at the same time a stadium is built, but only if the money ends up being invested wisely, and there are no guarantees that their potential replacements would be as effective in a team that is now within touching distance of winning the Premier League.
Another factor that must be considered is the message it would send to the likes of Alli, Alderweireld and Harry Kane if two of their more experienced and trusted teammates were allowed to leave for Old Trafford and the Etihad.
Which is why it is a strange summer at Tottenham; the future looks increasingly bright, but allowing Dier to follow Walker out of the club would cloud the picture and raise further questions about where Spurs really want to go.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_