In a new series this off-season, Ben McAleer discusses some of the clubs that are in need of a big summer to progress next season. Starting with Tottenham, who had Champions League football ripped from their clutches despite a top four finish.
*Pop*. With Didier Drogba’s winning penalty against Bayern Munich on Saturday night, that pop was the sound of Tottenham Hotspur’s Champions League dream ending. With that penalty against the Germans, the Blues were crowned, *sigh*, Europe’s best team, despite ending the season as England’s five places behind top spot.
With Spurs finishing fourth, Chelsea were given priority to enter the competition ahead of the North London side and, after 2005 and UEFA’s rule change following Everton’s fourth place finish coupled with Liverpool’s dramatic win over AC Milan in the final of the tournament, it is now impossible for Harry Redknapp’s side to take place in next years’ competition, meaning a second successive season in the Europa League.
Without Champions League football available at White Hart Lane next season, the ramifications are set to be massive. From player’s wanting to leave in order to play in Europe’s elite competition to the financial implications, this summer is set to be one of the longest and most difficult in recent memory for Tottenham Hotspur.
No Champions League football – their fault
Spurs fans can blame Arjen Robben for missing his penalty in the final, Lionel Messi for failing to score from the spot at the Camp Nou in the semi final or Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ivica Olic for missing their respective penalties in the shoot-out all they like. But the fact of the matter is, missing out on Champions League football is their own fault.
Back in February, Spurs held a 12-point gap over fourth placed Arsenal before, ultimately, capitulating and sacrificing the stranglehold they held over third place. In the end the race for third place went to the last game of the season and after the Gunners 3-2 win over West Bromwich Albion, irregardless of Spurs’ 2-0 win over Fulham, saw the former retain their spot in the Champions League next season.
However, that run between February and the end of April wasn’t the fault of anyone but manager Redknapp and the players. They are the ones that were charged with achieving a top four finish and whilst they managed to secure fourth on the final day of the season, it could easily have been a higher position in the Premier League had Spurs not had the disasterous run.
Yes, Bayern Munich were the better of the two teams, as were Barcelona in the semi-final, but, the most important game of the season should involve Tottenham Hotspur, not their London rivals or the second best team in Germany. Spurs should have had Champions League football wrapped up weeks ago, not relying on the Bundesliga side to overcome the Blues at the Allianz Arena.
With that Drogba penalty on Saturday night, Spurs’ transfers targets shifted very, very quickly. Marseille front-man Loic Remy was reported as wanting to see if Champions League football would be played at White Hart Lane next season before making a decision on his future. However, with Europa League football all the North Londoners can offer, any move for the Frenchman now appears highly unlikely.
Ajax captain Jan Vertonghen, last week, claimed he wants to join the club regardless of whether Spurs reach the Champions League or not, and with personal terms reportedly agreed between the club and player, all that is needed is for a fee, believed to be around €15m, to be settled with the two clubs.
Yet, when it comes to attracting top class talent, the lack of attraction drawn to performing in Europe’s top competition will begin to show as the summer drags on. And it isn’t just bringing players in that will be affected; holding on to the star performers will prove an equally, if not greater, task.
The likes of Luka Modric and Gareth Bale will both be heavily linked with big money moves to a number of Europe’s heavyweights. The latter, in particular, came close to leaving the club last summer, seeing a transfer request that would aid in securing a move to Chelsea turned down before chairman Daniel Levy rejected three bids from the Blues for the Croatian.
The same player in question is likely to want a move away from the club this summer having stalled on signing a new £100k-a-week contract in recent months, with the schemer opting to wait to see the outcome of the season before putting pen to paper. However, with no Champions League football on offer next season, it is highly unlikely that a new deal will be signed and, if Modric’s body language in the second half of the season is anything to go by, his head is no longer focused on Spurs, but rather on the move to the next big club to come calling.
Bale is another whose future is likely to be ravaged with speculation, with many teams already linked with his signature. The Welshman has become one of the prized trio at White Hart Lane, with Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart, and with four games still to go of the season, insinuated that he would be looking to leave the club should they fail to reach the Champions League.
Now that the inevitable has happened, chances are the vultures are likely to start circling their prey. Prior to the last game of the season, Levy stated that none of the big name player’s would leave the club this summer, and reports today suggest that the club have sent a letter, I’m hoping strongly worded and in blood red to show Spurs really mean it, to all those enquiring about Bale that he isn’t for sale.
Then again, every player has his price and if the player wants to leave, it may be hard for Spurs to reject any bid for the duo, especially if it is a record breaking offer from the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Last summer, Spurs only made a net profit due to the deadline day sales of Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios. The income from TV revenue from Champions League heavily contributed to this, while the lack of spending on new player’s (the club have spent just £16m since they fourth place finish in 2010 on signings) have helped the club stay out of the red.
Reaching the competition again was vital to the finances of the club, with no club making a profit from the Europa League unless they reach the final. With the Northumberland Development Project now beginning to pick up steam, the boost in income could have gone a long way to speeding up the plans to improve the surrounding area.
Furthermore, the wage structure is unlikely to increase as a result of the lack of Champions League football. As many know, Spurs have one of the tightest wages budgets in England, meaning the club can’t throw money at players in a vain hope that they would join, like Manchester City did after the 2009/10 season.
Now, without the increased income, a net profit is looking less likely than it did last season, despite Spurs appearing on TV more than any other team in the Premiership last season. With it, looking to tie down a number of the key performers on extended contracts is unlikely to occur due to the small financial wind fall that would have come with Champions League qualification.