As he perused the souvenir stall at Eindhoven airport yesterday – did he really consider buying those furry orange clogs? – Daniel Levy's mind may have wandered to more substantial purchases to come this summer. Exiting the Uefa Cup, despite protestations that there's much to play for, means that Tottenham Hotspur's season ended when Pascal Chimbonda shanked his penalty in the shoot-out against the Dutch champions.
Levy, the Spurs chairman, can expect to oversee an overhaul of the squad. With the Carling Cup in the White Hart Lane trophy room there is a feeling of a successful season, and a relief that it has not been the disaster it at one time threatened to be. But, given the outlay on the squad, the exorbitant salary being paid to head coach Juande Ramos, and the expectation at the club, it is not good enough.
Catching West Ham United and finishing 10th, rather than 11th, in the league is the only realistic goal from now until May which would mean local bragging rights and another £500,000 in prize money. And this for a club that had hoped to tap into the £20m plus of the Champions League and who watched in envy as the four clubs who finished above them last season all reached the quarter-finals of that high-rolling competition.
A "ticket to Europe", as Ramos put it, has been bought by beating Chelsea at Wembley last month and that may satisfy some players and attract others although whether or not Dimitar Berbatov will regard another campaign against the likes of Famagusta and Aalborg as enough is highly questionable. The Bulgarian striker is Spurs' most valuable asset and the club's most self-regarding. He gave warning that he would stay for two years and go unless his ambitions were matched and those two seasons are up this summer.
Given how high Ramos's currency is, the sale of Berbatov could possibly be stomached, especially if a fee of £20m, and a top-line replacement, are secured. Ramos is undoubtedly looking first to the league he knows best – Spain's – and the trips by the club's sporting director Damien Comolli to the Iberian peninsula have increased, especially to watch Espanyol, where goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, defender Daniel Jarque and winger Albert Riera play.
The list of those under threat at Spurs is clear: Paul Robinson, Chimbonda, Teemu Tainio, Lee Young-Pyo, Ricardo Rocha, Kevin-Prince Boateng and, of course, Darren Bent whose £16.5m price tag is looking increasingly ludicrous. Another experienced central defender is a must given the severe doubts over whether or not Ledley King will ever fully overcome his injury problems.
Yesterday the captain voiced the disappointment of being eliminated by PSV Eindhoven. "This was another cup Spurs could have won this season and it's a horrid way to go out, but we let our chance slip," King admitted. "We feel we have the players to win the competition, we had confidence in the team that we could get the result. The first leg has cost us, we didn't play well at home. The goal we gave them came from a mistake."
Other mistakes were also made. Ramos is undoubtedly a bold coach but was it right to have to use four different players at left-back against a side struggling with the occasion? The decision to drop Berbatov deeper, once Bent came on, and to play a narrow midfield with Chimbonda providing width on the right all appeared questionable. King, who like Robbie Keane was substituted, said they "tactically got it just right" but that was not the case.
"For us to win something means that the season will still go down as a positive year for us," King rightly reasoned. "Now we have that taste of winning something, we believe we can go on and do more." Given that Ramos will now have four months, and a full pre-season, to prepare for that campaign increases the likelihood of that.Reuse content