COMMENTARY | The player in question wants Champions League football.
It's the statement that's heard and seen throughout transfer windows whenever a star's name is mentioned. Tottenham Hotspur fans are no stranger to that one sentence. It was the main talking point during the two-year Luka Modric saga that ended with the midfield maestro joining Real Madrid last August. It's a big reason (along with a boatload of money he maybe/maybe not deserves) Gareth Bale is also set to join the Spanish giants.
Tottenham has done well in turning it into somewhat of a myth over the past couple of months.
Losing Bale, an inevitability at this point, should have badly hit Spurs regardless of what they did with whatever ridiculous amount of money they would receive from Real in that deal. Instead, and even before Bale has had an opportunity to put pen to paper on what will be a historic contract, Spurs have built up a squad that trumps what they had one year ago. Summer signings Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue are about to be joined by Erik Lamela and possibly one or two other big-name players.
How are Spurs doing this?
First and foremost, of course, is the money. One enters negotiations with plenty of confidence knowing that somewhere between £85-100m is about to be in the bank once Bale makes the switch. It's also worth noting that those in charge at White Hart Lane are hardly hurting for cash. One report from the middle of August even suggested that Tottenham majority shareholder Joe Lewis was ready to open the club's financial floodgates in order to acquire an influx of talent that may tempt Bale to remain at Spurs for one more season.
Then there's manager Andre Villas-Boas, who restored his reputation as one of the world's elite bosses and also erased his tenure at Chelsea from all memories last season. Don't take my word on it. Paulinho has told reporters that AVB was a big reason for his joining Tottenham and not a different Premier League club, such as Arsenal and Chelsea. Soon-to-be former Spurs player Bale teased the Tottenham fan base last month when he publicly discussed how much he enjoyed playing under Villas-Boas.
You also have to add in the fact that AVB earned club chairman Daniel Levy's trust, something former boss Harry Redknapp was never fully able to do while at the club. Levy, arguably the best at what he does in all of world football, understandably kept Villas-Boas on a short leash in year one, and thus AVB missed out on targets Willian, Leandro Damiao and Joao Moutinho among others. All that changed in June 2013 when Franco Baldini was appointed Tottenham Technical Director. Levy, known for not being a fan of such a post, had given Villas-Boas the director that the Spurs manager had craved since joining the club in the summer of 2012.
The events of the past two months have made one thing crystal clear: Obtaining Champions League is no longer merely a goal for Spurs. It's a must. Failing to do so would likely lead to world class players such as Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen believing they could do better than a side that, at best, continues to be relegated to the Thursday night NIT of European football. It'd also be hard for anybody to justify Villas-Boas remaining Spurs manager if he is incapable of leading this squad to a top-four finish.
I've seen some Tottenham fans referring to this as a new era for the club when discussing the matter on Twitter and other websites. That's not yet true. It's only the start of something big if Spurs show that they can hang with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City for an entire season. Otherwise, Tottenham will go on as it has been since its last Champions League experience.
Better than good, but far from great.
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.