LONDON (AP) - Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy insisted that the offseason decision to sell star Dimitar Berbatov to Manchester United was requested by the man who would ultimately lose his job as a result - former coach Juande Ramos.
Levy said on Thursday that he wanted to keep the Bulgaria striker despite his desire to join the English Premier League champion.
Spurs had held onto Berbatov a year earlier following a similar request and were prepared to do so again, but Levy said Ramos insisted on getting rid of him because he was a disruptive and sullen influence on the rest of the squad.
Despite Tottenham not having found a replacement up front, Berbatov's deal with United was finalized in the final minutes of the summer transfer window.
Along with the departure of Robbie Keane, that contributed to the lack of firepower that left Spurs anchored to the bottom of the Premier League.
Ramos was fired on Saturday after just 10 goals in 12 matches and was replaced by Harry Redknapp, who has already coaxed six goals, four points and a first league win from two matches.
"Had the right opportunity come along and we'd been able to secure the striker, that striker would have been purchased regardless of whether Dimitar Berbatov had been sold,'' Levy said.
"When we weren't successful in bringing in an experienced striker, it was the coach that decided to let Dimitar go even though we didn't have a replacement.
"It was a football decision.''
Levy said the incident proved that reports stating that Ramos and his predecessor Martin Jol had players forced upon them by sporting director Damien Comolli were false.
"There's never ever been a player signed for this club or sold from this club that the coach has not supported,'' Levy said.
"They are ultimately the coach's decision.''Levy still believes in the continental system of sporting director and coach that he adopted at Tottenham in 2004, even though he abolished it last week when he fired Ramos and Comolli.
"When you have a number of signings that have not quite worked out and when you've spent a lot of money, you have to begin over a period of time to question the advice you've been given,'' Levy said.
The appointment of Redknapp in sole control suggests that Levy perhaps did not have the same level of faith in Ramos, who worked under a sporting director in his hugely successful spell at Sevilla.
"Everyone makes a thing about this structure. Let's not lose sight of the fact that we've had European football for three years under the structure,'' Levy said.
"It's nothing to do with the structure, it's the people. If we'd have bought in a different type of manager, a foreign coach for example, the structure would have stayed.
"It's the fact that with Harry he's got certain qualities that other coaches don't have because they're not used to operating the way Harry does. With Harry, you don't need a sporting director because he knows his way around the transfer market.''
Levy actually tried to hire Redknapp from Portsmouth to replace Jol before appointing Ramos a year ago.
"I'm sorry for whatever reason that it didn't happen,'' Levy said.
After publicly backing Ramos through a poor start to the season, Levy said he decided to change the coach a day after last Thursday's 2-0 UEFA Cup loss at Udinese.
He said Ramos, who has thanked the club on his personal Web site for his time there, had been paid a fixed compensation settlement under the terms of his contract.
"I wanted Juande to succeed,'' Levy said.
"He's an absolute gentleman and I think he's a good coach, but for one reason or another it hasn't quite worked out for him.
"It reached a point where I had to do something drastic because I know we have a group of very talented players. We had to make a change and do it quickly because clearly, as the last two games have proved, we're scoring goals with the same players.''
Levy even admitted he may have made a mistake by firing the popular Jol, who twice led Spurs to fifth place and has since enjoyed a strong start to the season in charge of German club Hamburg.
"With the benefit of hindsight, Juande came in and we clearly didn't finish fifth,'' Levy said.
"If I'd had a crystal ball and knew that Martin would finish fifth, I wouldn't have done it.''