2010/11 will most likely be remembered as very bittersweet for Spurs fans. They finally broke into the Champions League, played some of the best football on offer anywhere in England and recorded some huge results against Inter Milan and arch-rivals Arsenal never mind what happens against AC Milan in the knock-out stages. The team has come from behind more than anyone else this season and the indomitable spirit and attacking verve that Redknapp has installed made Spurs the favourite of many neutrals. Yet it also might be the season that the Champions League takes its toll and Manchester City snatch the fourth European place.
With Chelsea coming back into form after the world’s longest recorded ‘bad moment’ Spurs find themselves three points adrift of the Champions League places with a seriously inferior goal difference. It must be said that the gap is hardly insurmountable and both Chelsea and Spurs have a game in hand over Manchester City. However the lack of killer in front of goal has been a significant problem for ‘Arry all season. Defoe has missed a large portion of the year through injury, Crouch has only one league goal from 23 appearances and it seems that Pavlyuckenko is not trusted despite scoring five in less games than Crouch. Any European hangover from facing the Italian league leaders could prove deadly. The lack of a proven goal scorer, battling on multiple fronts and defensive frailties all combine to make the North Londoners the outsiders in the race.
The harsh reality is that if Tottenham do not manage to get back into the Champions League this season then the biggest clubs in Europe will be targeting key players such as Bale and Modric. Rumours linking the young Welshman to Inter Milan or Real Madrid have only grown after his devastating performances in the group stages while Ferguson is said to be a very keen admirer of Modric. Today the Guardian announced its massively underwhelming (check the comments) exclusive that Inter will bid £40m for Bale this summer. It seems incredibly cruel that such wonderful football might be the downfall of this side.
If there is a bright side, it would be that chairman Daniel Levy has proved repeatedly that he is a tough man to bargain with as Manchester United found out when they were forced to hand over nearly £50m to purchase Berbatov and Carrick. Bale would command a fee of at least £30m at a conservative estimate given his age and potential and likely much more. Modric also has good re-sale value, a huge determinant in the cost of any given transfer. With an additional £50-60m in the kitty wheeler-dealer ‘Arry might just be able to replace Bale and Modric and add some firepower. Not an easy pair to replace but Redknapp is nothing of not savvy in that department.
Even if the duo are sold, other key members of the squad such as Dawson, Lennon, Van Der Vaart and Assou-Ekotto should all be retained. Huddlestone is growing into his midfield role and hopefully Sandro will be bedded in by next season. Some of the fat can be trimmed such as Keane and dos Santos. New faces might be brought in. Steven Pienaar has already arrived from Everton and more will follow if money allows. But it would be a real shame if the creative heart of this young and attractive side is picked off by the elite after only one season in Europe. Tottenham might just be paying the price for their own success.