English giants Tottenham Hotspur secured the immediate transfer of Schalke 04 's Lewis Holtby on Monday for a sum reported to be $2.8m. The clubs had already agreed to a summer transfer, so the timing of Holtby's move was a surprise.
For Spurs, it is a brilliant signing. Holtby is a considerable 22-year old talent, versatile, with a keen eye for his teammates. Pair Holtby with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, and Tottenham should be able to field one of the Premier League 's most skillful and creative midfields right away. He is no doubt a great get for a club battling Arsenal and Liverpool for a Champions League spot.
But for Schalke the move makes little sense. Holtby has arguably been Schalke's best player in a tumultuous season that has seen them succeed in Europe and flop at home. Schalke was 2nd in the league on November 10th, but then spiraled all the way down to 7th. They have since fired their coach, and currently sit 6th. They are in real danger of missing out on European competition next season.
In Schalke's only win during a barren nine-game stretch, Holtby scored the winning goal and set up two more in a 5-4 thriller over Hannover . On the season, Holtby has found the net four times and is second in the Bundesliga with seven assists. Only Bayern 's Thomas Muller and Dortmund 's Marco Reus have more. One can only imagine how much Jefferson Farfan, who's been excellent this season, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will miss Holtby's passing and vision in the crucial months to come.
Neither the player nor the club's finances were an issue. Holtby has always dreamed of playing for a big Premier League club, but was a consummate pro for Schalke. Even after news of his initial transfer broke, Holtby was still cheered by the club's notoriously short-fused fans.
Earning a Champions League berth next season would also bring in considerably more cash than the $2.8m Spurs had to fork over to get Holtby now. Schalke, of course, are still in this year's competition, drawn against a formidable yet beatable Galatasaray. Should Schalke get past them, UEFA will give them $5m, a payout twice that of Holtby's winter transfer fee. In short, if money was the problem, Schalke would have been better served to keep Holtby the rest of the season.
As it happens, Galatasaray have bulked up, adding both Wesley Sneijder and last year's Final hero Didier Drogba to their side. Schalke, in contrast, have surrendered their best player and Michel Bastos, who's hotly rumored to join Schalke from Lyon , doesn't match Holtby's position nor his talent.
So why unload Holtby now? Good question. For most big clubs - and aside from Dortmund and Bayern, there isn't a bigger one in Germany - securing a Champions League spot is top priority. Schalke belongs in European competition, but getting there without its midfield general will be a daunting task.
Yesterday, Schalke was still in a great position to turn around their season and make a substantial profit. Today, Schalke have sold out their own cause for this season and the next. And for what?