When Aston Villa won the European Cup in 1982 the teams they beat to reach the final were Valur, Dynamo Berlin, Dynamo Kiev and Anderlecht. Tottenham may have started this season's campaign against Young Boys Berne but if they reach the final they will have subsequently had to beat Internazionale, Milan, Real Madrid and (probably) Barcelona, a quartet who between them have won the Continent's premier competition 22 times.
After a half-century's absence from the elite Spurs seem to be on a "legends" tour so it should have been no surprise when they were yesterday paired with the grandest name of all in the quarter-finals – with the prospect of playing the best contemporary team in the semi-finals. That pre-supposes Barcelona dispense with Shakhtar Donetsk in the last eight, which is no more of a foregone conclusion than the expectation that Real will dismiss Spurs despite the excitement in Spain at the prospect of a European Clasico in the semi-finals.
Jose Mourinho, as ever, had it right when he said: "It's not worth talking about Barça v Real Madrid in the semis. There's as much chance of a Shakhtar v Tottenham semi." Shrewd words, though undermined by the enthusiasm with which his sporting director, Miguel Pardeza, ignored his advice talking, among other things, of how Real's big squad could make the difference against the Catalans.
It is not as big as it was before Rafael van der Vaart was shipped out of Madrid for a cut-price £8m to Spurs in August. The Dutchman has been a revelation at White Hart Lane and is one reason Harry Redknapp can view the tie with confidence. Van der Vaart drew on his experience in Madrid to make a pertinent observation. Barcelona play their second leg first and Real will be carrying a considerable weight of expectation should they come to White Hart Lane next month needing a result to set up a Clasico. Van der Vaart noted: "We don't have pressure, we can play our game. We have a chance I'm sure,"
Having beaten both Milan clubs Redknapp feels the same and he relished the draw. "It's fantastic. What a game to look forward to," he said. "Real Madrid have great players and one of the all-time great managers, so it will be difficult, but we'll go there and give it a real go. Hopefully we can do what we did in Milan. A real pressure night at Tottenham gives you a chance as long as you are in the game. It will be good to see Jose. He was amazing for English football. He was a fantastic coach and a great manager. He lit the Premier League up."
Redknapp faced Mourinho five times in the English game, once as manager of Southampton, four times with Portsmouth. He lost all five which might explain the contrasting descriptions of their relationship. Redknapp said of Mourinho: "I was not close to him, but I respected him." The Portuguese said: "Harry is a friend, one of the few really good friends I made in England."
Mourinho added: "I know how English football is – full of passion and players who give everything. We are playing a team that beat Inter and knocked out Milan and who are going very well and have a great manager. I am happy to go back to London and congratulate Harry on his brilliant work."
Mourinho will hope that work does not extend to victory over Real but he will be aware that Tottenham do have players that can hurt a defence that is less stellar than its attack. The same, though, can be said of Spurs.
Redknapp plans to fly to Madrid after today's early match with West Ham to watch Real's derby at Atletico tonight. He will hope to avoid a repeat of the mugging he suffered in the Spanish capital in January. That may be why he has asked Joe Jordan to accompany him. Jordan, Redknapp says, hopes to appeal against the one-match stadium ban imposed by Uefa following his touchline row with Milan's Gennaro Gattuso last month. It will keep him away from the first leg if upheld.Reuse content