It’s a make-or-break season for Tottenham
It was no secret that Chelsea winning the Champions League would severely damage Spurs; but it wasn’t just the hurt of the long-standing rivalry between the clubs, nor the fact that any dreamy ambitions of being the first London club in history to lift the European Cup had been dashed. Rather than the past, this was about the future.
Spurs had spent the first half of the 2011-12 season as title contenders and even once they had dropped off the pace of the Mancunian clubs, they still looked good for Champions League qualification.
While it is a sad indictment of modern football that finishing in the top four should be the be-all and end-all for so many teams, the financial realities for those teams involved are unavoidable, and when they finally managed to secure a return to Champions League football on the final day, Spurs had without doubt fulfilled their ambition for the season.
With Chelsea’s penalty shootout win in Munich a week later, all that good work was undone. All of the TV money gone, all of the extra gate receipts and glamour ties gone, but most importantly, the prestige of being a Champions League club would not be theirs.
Tottenham attempted to continue their business as if they had qualified for Europe’s elite club competition, showing no lack of ambition as they vied with Premier League rivals to sign the continent’s hottest property in Eden Hazard. Hazard, who had previously expressed an interest in signing for the White Hart Lane club, ended up at the club that had dashed Spurs’ dreams in the first place, Chelsea.
It didn’t matter though, because in came André Villas-Boas with his shopping list, beautiful, high-pressing football, and a long-term vision for the club – surely it would all be plain-sailing from here?
Top of the Portuguese manager’s list was Oscar, a modern, all-action midfielder at Internacional, whom Spurs have an international affiliation agreement with. That Spurs managed to miss out on the player again to Chelsea, even with such a deal in place, was a theme that was beginning to become a little familiar and worrying for Daniel Levy and his club, not to mention the inconvenience that these failures also happened to be strengthening their direct rivals.
It would happen again when Spanish club Málaga – themselves a side that had finally reached the precious bounty of the Champions League – found themselves in financial difficulties and had to sell their leading stars. Tottenham were the first club to bid for playmaker-in-chief Santi Cazorla, but once more they would miss out on a key target with the Spaniard electing to join arch rivals Arsenal instead.
With Tottenham having to resort to second-best on all fronts – their manager is a Chelsea cast-off after all – this season is absolutely make-or-break for the medium and longer-term future of the club.
Their transfer policy now will entail taking more gambles. Leandro Damião of Brazil may be their top target, but it is far from ideal for Tottenham to see him shining so brightly at the Olympics.
In going for players such as Damião instead of proven Premier League performers like Emmanuel Adebayor, the White Hart Lane club are taking a risk. But it is a risk that they have been forced to take not even by their own failures, but by Chelsea’s most unlikely success.
If their unwanted gamble pays off, then they can rebuild as a top-four club and wipe the sweat from their brow, having got away with it. If it goes the other way, then the consequences for the club will be far wider-reaching.
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