By Jay Jaffa
First it was Wembley in April, then Munich on Saturday. With both events united, Didier Drogba sounded the death knell for Tottenham's aspirations. Only this time, by winning the Champions League for Chelsea, he condemned the north Londoners to the Europa League, throwing short-term plans into turmoil.
Spurs fans are no strangers to disappointment but for a season that promised so much and ended with so little this campaign must rank among the most bitter.
Harry Redknapp's three years in charge have largely been a success. Or at least the modern understanding of the word. The 2009-10 fourth-place finish heralded what was supposed to be a new era for the north London club. The false dawns of years gone by, seemingly vanquished as the club took their seat at Europe's top table.
Juggling a debut Champions League adventure and an effort to cement their top four standing proved too tough an ask the following year but by this January, a return to the pinnacle of European competition looked inevitable.
A catastrophic run of form in March and a complacent conclusion ensured Tottenham's future was left in the lap of the gods. And they were most certainly not German.
Though it may ease the hurt somewhat to lay the blame with Bayern Munich and their wasteful finishing, followers of the club would be wise to listen to Rafael van der Vaart's judgement that "we only have ourselves to blame."
It is the cold truth but the club cannot afford to grieve. Calls for Redknapp to be sacked may once have held validity but the game has now changed. What Tottenham need is his experience to guide them through the toughest summer the club will have faced in years.
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Luka Modric and Gareth Bale will be courted by most of Europe and it may be time to accept the two stars have played their last games in the Lilywhite shirt. Certainly, the Croatian would have watched on in frustration as the club he openly flirted with last August picked up club football's greatest prize.It is possible chairman Daniel Levy could dig his heels in – particularly with Bale – who has yet to publicise a desire to leave. Either way, to rock the boat further would only further damage the foundations laid by Levy and Redknapp.
But one should not forget that Redknapp has often been praised throughout his managerial career for his ability to mould a cohesive squad. He knows how to build a team. Even without Bale and Modric, Spurs have a strong core of players in their mid-twenties.
However, the much-maligned wage ceiling that has prevented the club from purchasing true marquee players remains and will hinder hopes of change this summer.
Emmanuel Adebayor, who was so crucial to Spurs' attacking style yet so financially driven, would have been a difficult deal to conclude regardless of the outcome in Munich. But now the notion of the Togolese striker permanently swapping Manchester for London seems inconceivable.
Mid-season rumours that Eden Hazard preferred a switch to White Hart Lane look laughable.
Chairman Daniel Levy is a shrewd but pragmatic businessman and it is unlikely he will have planned the club's summer movements entirely on the basis of Champions League football.
There will be a contingency plan but the swiftness of action remains crucial. Indeed, speed in the market is even more important with the European Championships on the horizon. If there is any sense nestling among the decision-makers, Tottenham will delve into the transfer market and cover their bases early.
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More often than not when Levy is involved, express negotiations are waylaid for boardroom brinkmanship and although it may save the club the odd million, it can be to the detriment of pre-season planning.
Behind closed doors, the club are progressive in their work. They are due to move to the new state-of-the-art training base for next year and the process surrounding the construction of a new stadium in Tottenham continue.
Such off-field commitments, have invariably curtailed the flamboyant spending associated with Spurs in the last two decades. Gone are the days of spending £16.5 million on a Darren Bent.
Cynics will be pleased to hear this news, but when the alternative is Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen, the future looks a lot bleaker.
What will Redknapp do next? Agonisingly for Tottenham supporters, the aforementioned veterans will likely receive contract extensions. Rough and ready Premier League stalwarts will be sought to boost squad numbers, and more importantly to Redknapp, character.
This summer is staggeringly important. Get it wrong and Tottenham will face an exodus and years of rebuilding. With Levy likely to limit investment, distress will engulf White Hart Lane over the coming months. Only time will tell if the management have the ability to survive the incoming storm.
Where in 2010-11 Spurs were welcomed to Club Uefa, next year will seem as though they have arrived at a swanky London bar only to be told by security their name is no longer on the list.
Redknapp and Levy must refocus rather than stare longingly at the Champions League dance floor or else be trapped at square one.
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