LONDON ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17: A detailed view of the UEFA Champions League Trophy during the UEFA Champions League Final 2011 Ticket Launch at City Hall on February 17 2011 in London England. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
I know, I know. We're supposed to be thinking positively. I know that fourth isn't necessarily out of reach for Tottenham Hotspur. Manchester City could certainly choke away their advantage down the stretch. We'll certainly have a clearer idea of what Spurs' chances are of a top four finish after this afternoon's City vs. Blackburn Rovers game, but until then let's look at just what fifth place might mean.
Fifth place isn't necessarily the end of the world that many would have you believe. Let's be honest: In the last ten years Spurs have only played in Europe the last four and this was our first Champions League campaign. The 90's were even worse for Spurs as the club only appeared in Europe twice. Granted, we were a fixture in European competition in the 80's, but I'd be willing to bet most of us Americans were not Spurs fans at that time.
By finishing fifth Tottenham Hotspur would clinch qualification for the playoff round of the Europa League. The quality of the opposition would not be the same as it is in the Champions League, but there were some very good teams in this years playoff round: Borussia Dortmund, Villarreal, Napoli, Bayer Leverkusen, and Porto, just to name a few. Winning here and making it to the group stages and potentially beyond would guarantee more great European mid-week games at White Hart Lane, though perhaps no match-ups quite as exciting as we saw this season.
The main difference, aside from the level of competition, between the Champions League and the Europa league is the prize money. In the Europa League, for example:
Each team taking part this term will collect a €640,000 participation bonus together with a match bonus of €60,000 for every match played in the group stage. They can add to this total minimum amount of €1m through a series of performance-related rewards, starting with €140,000 per win and €70,000 per draw in their group games.
Whereas in the Champions League:
Each of the 32 clubs taking part in the UEFA Champions League group stage that kicks off on Tuesday will receive a participation bonus of €3.9m, plus a match bonus of €550,000 per group game played. On top of that, the following performance bonuses will be paid: €800,000 for every win and €400,000 for every draw in the group stage.
Clearly the gulf between the two leagues in terms of money is huge. For winning the Europa League a team would receive only €3 million, whereas this year's Champions League winner will get €9 million. We've talked before about how importance the money from Europe is to keeping Tottenham Hotspur from running up the big debts of the other top clubs and playing in the Europa League certainly isn't going to help that any.
The thing, however, that could wind up being most important in all this is that Manchester City will finish fourth. The club has already been able to attract some of the top talent in football due to their wages. Throw Champions League Football on top of that and we could see the gap between Spurs and Man City grow. Additionally, Liverpool will no doubt look to strengthen their squad this summer and Spurs could be in trouble.
The argument is often thrown around that Tottenham does not have a big enough stadium to compete with the other top clubs. This year, Tottenham are averaging 35,686 fans per game, placing us in tenth place in the league. We're well aware the Tottenham Hotspur Chairmen Daniel Levy is exploring all options to procure a new stadium and with funds potentially tied up there and the lack of Champions League income, Spurs could find it hard to retain and attract players.
For now though, this is all speculation. I refuse to count Spurs out of contention for fourth just yet. Hopefully, the results in the coming weeks will render this post pointless and stupid. Come on you Spurs!