Tottenham decide it's the right moment to cash in on Kyle Walker
Tottenham fans could be forgiven for feeling slightly stunned when Kyle Walker's £50 million departure was confirmed on Friday, but his exit hardly came as a surprise. Rumours of a move to Manchester City emerged well before the season finished, and Mauricio Pochettino's team selections in the final weeks suggested he was already planning for a future without the England man.
Nonetheless, supporters are having to come to terms with the most notable sale since Gareth Bale's departure to Real Madrid. And, unlike the Welshman and Luka Modric, Walker has been allowed to join a Premier League rival.
Supporters criticising the club's decision have reasonable complaints.
Spurs' full-backs have been key to their success and Walker's pace and athleticism were ideal for Pochettino's side, allowing him to get up and down the flanks and use his speed in both defence and attack.
There is also a feeling in some quarters that Tottenham have reaffirmed their status as a selling club who will bow down to their wealthier enemies if the price is right. Yet Pochettino has stated "the players that we want to keep, we will keep" -- and Spurs have been adamant Eric Dier is not for sale.
They never took such a strong stance with Walker as the rumours intensified, and his omissions from the lineups against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United at the climax of the campaign hardly showed a determination to keep him, or placate him.
He increasingly appeared to be expendable and his departure probably says more about his relationship with Pochettino, and the Argentinian's desire for absolute commitment, than it does about Spurs' relationship with their rivals or their ambition.
After all, Sir Alex Ferguson sold some big-name players at United, allowing David Beckham to join Real Madrid.
Tottenham have clearly decided this was the right moment to cash in on Walker, and there is something to be said for that point of view.
He may be England's first-choice right-back on merit, and a better defender than Kieran Trippier, but he is not without his faults -- after getting into good positions with his pace, he does not necessarily make the most of it.
Walker registered five assists for Spurs last term after making 36 starts in all competitions, while Trippier contributed six in 18 starts. Left-back Danny Rose notched two goals and three assists in his 21 starts.
In that respect Rose, whose final ball was also once a weakness, has overtaken Walker and probably become the more dynamic and dangerous player. He would have been a bigger loss.
In fact, out of all the first-team regulars, Walker was among the most replaceable. If that provokes a sharp intake of breath, consider the alternative candidates.
Walker largely gets space to make his rampaging runs down the right flank because of the way Spurs play, sucking opponents into central areas.
There is no reason why a replacement who is also blessed with raw pace could not get similar opportunities to make an impact in the final third.
Meanwhile, it has been apparent that Pochettino has felt the need to manage Walker's game time more than others, possibly due to the hip and groin problems he suffered in 2014.
Indeed, his decision to rest the full-back in a number of key matches last term -- including half of the Champions League group games -- has reportedly been a cause of tension.
It will be interesting to see how he is used by Pep Guardiola, and we may soon discover whether he has been overprotected or saved from himself.
From a coaching perspective, Pochettino may see a player who could be better but is unlikely to now improve greatly -- unlike Trippier, who was arguably the most-improved player of last season and has recently made his England debut.
And, from a financial point of view, Daniel Levy is probably happy to sell an asset who will probably never be worth more than he is now. The flip side is that, on both counts, this means selling a player when he is at his best.
Ultimately, it is too early to say definitively whether Spurs have done the right thing -- that depends entirely on how the money is spent and how the squad performs, next season and in the longer term.
If Spurs spend £20m on a speedy right-back who can emulate Walker's style and complement Trippier's crossing ability, or if Kyle Walker-Peters quickly proves to be a revelation, while the club also invest in other areas of the squad, it could look a smart piece of business.
If, on the other hand, any succession plan backfires, the cash is squandered on ineffective recruits and Trippier's defensive weaknesses are exposed, it will be difficult to defend Spurs' decision.
All that can be said for now is that Tottenham can cope without Walker and, at £50m, the offer was too good to turn down. The real question is what happens next.
Ben is ESPN FC's Tottenham blogger. Follow on Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.