Spurs' gamble to reap rewards

2010-05-06 18:01

London - Tottenham's expensive gamble on switching managers 18 months ago could be about to pay off in a big way.

Fearful of the drop in revenue and status that would come with relegation, Tottenham was last in the English Premier League when it paid Portsmouth $8m in compensation to hire Harry Redknapp.

The north London club is now on course for a windfall of several million pounds after Wednesday's 1-0 win at Manchester City secured fourth place and a shot at an appearance in the Champions League.

But arguably more important is the prestige and status that will come from mixing with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Striker Peter Crouch is one of the few Tottenham players to have played in the Champions League, making it all the way to the 2007 final with Liverpool. He said Spurs will start to find it easier to attract world-class players to the club.

"It's the best competition in the world, with the best players in the world and any player would want to be part of it," said Crouch, whose goal beat Manchester City. "I remember those Champions League nights at Anfield being so special and I believe they can be just as special at White Hart Lane."

City spent more than $304m on players over the past two years and was rumored to be lining up bids for the likes of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard in the hope that Champions League football could tempt them to join a previously unheralded club.

Instead, Tottenham could now be looking at some of Europe's elite players.

"I picked an attacking team and took a bit of a gamble," Redknapp said. "We were a point in front and could have easily come here and played 4-5-1 but we went for it."

The game against fifth-place City was effectively a playoff for the Champions League, although a draw would have sent Tottenham into Sunday's last day of the season needing only to match City's final result.

But, buoyed by recent wins over Arsenal and Chelsea, Redknapp's bravado was rewarded with a fluid performance and an 82nd-minute goal by Crouch.

"We've played well throughout the season and that's the key," Redknapp said. "It's been a pleasure to watch. I've enjoyed watching the lads play, the way we move the football. That's how I like to play."

German club Werder Bremen was eliminated from the group stage last season but still earned an estimated $33.9m from the Champions League - 23% of its total annual revenue.

That could let Tottenham indulge in at least one high-profile transfer or fund improved contracts for the likes of England winger Aaron Lennon and Wales midfielder Gareth Bale, both of whom have been linked with moves to Manchester United.

Tottenham could still clinch third place and an automatic spot in the Champions League group stage, but the most likely outcome is an appearance in the final qualifying round - which guarantees a fixed $2.7m payment.

That still leaves open the possibility that Tottenham's long-suffering fans could still be disappointed.

The club's only previous appearance in Europe's top club competition was in 1961-62 after Spurs won the last of its two league titles. The team was beaten in the semifinals by Benfica, and since the early '70s has challenged only intermittently for honors.

Tottenham has not been a league contender since 1986-87 and has won only three cups since 1984.

"Our fans have had a few disappointments overs the years and, if we can get through, hopefully we can get some big names to White Hart Lane," Tottenham assistant manager Joe Jordan said.

The group stage would bring another guaranteed $9m participation fee, with more money coming from television revenue and bonuses based on results.

British accountancy firm Deloitte says that such figures mean the Champions League is "in effect, the sixth big European league, in revenue terms."

Nine of the top 10 clubs in Deloitte's annual list of Europe's richest clubs for 2008-09 appeared in that season's Champions League.

"Relative performance in the Champions League will become even more important in determining a club's revenue performance and position in the money league in future," Deloitte said.