In signing a 33-year-old with little to no sell-on value on a short-term contract, Daniel Levy has signalled a willingness to hand the keys to the club’s immediate future to managing director Fabio Paratici and head coach Antonio Conte.
As chairman, Levy has established a clear policy of signing young players with sell-on value, only deviating from the model in rare cases, where the commercial value of bringing in a superstar like Edgar Davids or Gareth Bale outweighed the costs of the deal.
But Conte is not a project coach like Mauricio Pochettino. The Italian wants to win now and has publicly called for experienced heads to improve his squad and help to instil a winning mentality in the dressing-room — citing the impact 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic had at new Serie A champions AC Milan.
He has also appeared to question Spurs’ policy of targeting youth, and as part of their bid to persuade the wavering head coach to remain in his post, Levy and Paratici offered Conte guarantees they would be willing to make concessions to his desire for proven winners this summer.
Perisic is evidence of that promise in action, although as a free transfer Spurs will only have to cover a signing-on fee and his wages, which are expected to be around the £100,000-a-week mark.
Even so, with the arrival of the Croatian international, diminished is any suggestion that Spurs are building a new cycle or planning for the future. Perisic is an experienced and ready-made winner, who was a key part of Bayern Munich’s treble in 2020 and help Conte’s Inter to a first Serie A title in 11 years, not to mention scoring in a World Cup semi-final and final.
His arrival points to Levy’s desire to capitalise on the club’s return to the Champions League, world-beating infrastructure and recent £150million injection from owners ENIC, as well as the flux at certain rivals, and challenge for honours immediately.
That is not to say Spurs will stop targeting promising young players.
January signings Dejan Kulusevski, 22, and Rodrigo Bentancur, 24, are evidence that Spurs can buy youth and still improve the team, and Perisic’s former Inter teammate, 23-year-old Alessandro Bastoni is another target, along with Middlesbrough’s Djed Spence, 21. But they are now prepared to think short-term to boost their chances of on-pitch success, even if it means impacting the balance sheets down the line.
Perisic knows exactly what is takes to play under Conte and what will be required of him as a wing-back in the Italian’s 3-5-2 system.
He will be expected to add the goals, assists, thrust and poise in the final third that was so often missing from the likes of Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal this season.
The Croatian has predominantly played left wing-back — where he will be the perfect example for the promising Ryan Sessegnon — but could also play on the right, at No.10 or as an alternative to Heung-min Son and Kulusevski on the flanks.
His versatility is such that Spurs could still sign another left wing-back this summer -- they also admire Eintracht Frankfurt’s Filip Kostic -- and still be confident that Perisic improves their XI elsewhere.
Perhaps more than anything, Perisic already has experience of winning a title under Conte and will therefore immediately be an example to the rest of the squad to follow.
A theme of Levy’s chairmanship has been a reluctance to hand full control to his managers and head coaches, and almost every one of Conte’s predecessors eventually grew frustrated with the chairman.
It is still very early days in a hugely important window for Spurs but the signing of Perisic suggests Levy might now be willing to take a backseat and let his coach dictate.