Tottenham Hotspur’s stratospheric rise to European stardom has been a truly remarkable and quite romantic tale this season. But just as the club is beginning to establish itself among Europe’s elite clique, it could soon be thrust aside by the financial powerhouses within the Premier League. Sadly, this season could be ‘the best it ever gets’ for Spurs.
The North-Londoners, with their adventurous approach and array of attacking talent, have won the admiration of football fans across the continent during their magnificent ascent from rock-bottom in the league to the quarter-finals of UEFA’s Champions League. Now awaiting a glamour tie with the highly decorated Real Madrid, the side have already slayed Italian giants AC Milan and Inter Milan (holders) this campaign.
But while many Tottenham fans have lost themselves in the all-engrossing fairytale, others no doubt will have foreseen the damning moral of the story: In today’s game, money is everything.
Spurs do not, and will not have the financial muscle to battle the Premier League’s current top four while they remain at White Hart Lane. With regards to total revenue, Manchester United and Arsenal made €349.8M & €274.1M respectively during the 2009/10 season, compared with €146.3M, the turnover amassed by Tottenham during the same period.
While neither Chelsea nor Manchester City posses a 60,000+ capacity stadium, both oligarch-run clubs do have a seemingly endless supply of funds. Therefore Spurs simply will not have the ability to compete in the transfer market with the four clubs currently positioned above them for much longer . Even Liverpool, a side who until now have been underachieving, boast a higher annual revenue of nearly €100M more than the North-London outfit.
Tottenham desperately need a bigger stadium if they wish to successfully break into the top bracket of English clubs; an 80,000 all-seater arena would certainly have equipped them well to do this. But to the delight of many, albeit it for different reasons, the club missed out on the proposed Olympic Stadium in Stratford. The loss, to West Ham, could be detrimental to the long-term future of Tottenham Hotspur, if it wishes to continually compete at the dizzy heights it has of late.
Even in the short-term, Spurs’ situation is a delicate one. Their involvement in the Champions League over the next few years will directly determine whether the club progresses to become a top European outfit, or regresses to the Tottenham of old, a Europa League contender at best.
Participating in Europe’s most prestigious club competition will enable the Lilywhites to retain the likes of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart whilst strengthening the squad with the extra £35-40M revenue the tournament yields. But in contrast, a lack of Champions League football will result in the quality of their squad diminishing, with top players moving on to bigger and more ambitious clubs.
The next few years are crucial for Tottenham. The club must keep on a par with Manchester City until UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules fully set in – supposedly bringing The Citizens back down to a level playing field in the transfer market. Otherwise, the North London side could find itself consigned to Europa League football and depleted of its best talent by that point.
For such a well-run club, ironically Spurs’ future is a cloud of uncertainty. Aside from the financial factors mentioned previously, wary fans will have been anticipating the seemingly imminent departure of Harry Redknapp for some time now.
The 64-year-old has made no secret of his desire to manage England and appears to have taken Tottenham as far as the club can go. Therefore it looks increasingly likely that the former West Ham man will succeed Fabio Capello in 2012, given that it will probably be his last opportunity to land the job.
Redknapp’s departure, providing the script plays out as expected, will undoubtedly have an adverse affect at White Hart Lane.
It is quite conceivable the club’s biggest stars follow Harry Redknapp out the door. Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, to name a few, may sense the end of an era when their alluring manager vacates, and neither will be short of offers having flourished so emphatically on the European stage this season. The temptation to move on to a bigger club could be further intensified if Spurs are not featuring regularly in the Champions League.
Meanwhile, in the immediate future, club chairman Daniel Levy who notably runs a tight ship, is unlikely to give his manager a large transfer budget capable of rivalling the Premier League’s top spenders this summer; especially if that same manager is to be gone in just over a year. Levy recognizes he will need to provide a substantial transfer kitty to entice a first-class managerial successor at Tottenham and it is simply not worth spending money on players who may not feature in the new man’s plans.
Spurs supporters may be enjoying their run in the Champions League, but the many doubts surrounding the club’s future will come to prominence when their fairytale reaches its end.
Tottenham Hotspur has the opportunity, from its current state, to evolve and become one of England’s supreme clubs, but it needs a bigger stadium and it needs that soon. Until that time, the club will be stuck in a ‘Catch-22′ scenario where it needs Champions League football in order to afford and attract top-class players, whilst at the same time needs money and top-class players to battle the top English clubs for Champions League football.
By Matthew Aquino – Luton Town fan – @ElevenAgainst11