Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, expects an even tougher task to finish in the top four of the Premier League next season, particularly as he believes Manchester City have already signed players that will "blow your brains out".
It was just over a year ago that Peter Crouch scored the winner at City to secure a place in the Champions League for Tottenham. But ahead of tonight's fixture at Eastlands, Redknapp admitted it would take a miracle for Spurs to achieve back-to-back qualification for Europe's top club competition.
He feels Liverpool can now challenge for a top-four finish in future seasons, while City are potential English and European champions with the continued investment of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, their owner.
"The man from Abu Dhabi has got so much money, I mean, it isn't like money to him is it? That is the key," said Redknapp. "They tell me they've got one or two players signed already who'll blow your brains out. I mean, that's where they're going. They aren't going to stop till they win the championship and even then the Champions League, are they?"
Redknapp considers the victory over City 12 months ago as one of his finest moments as a manager. That evening ended in the 64-year-old getting soaked with an ice bucket during the celebrations, courtesy of David Bentley, and also sparked a spending spree at City.
At a cost of more than £130m, Roberto Mancini, the City manager, added Jerome Boateng, David Silva, Yaya Touré, Mario Balotelli, James Milner and Edin Dzeko over the season.
Alexis Sanchez, the Udinese forward, and Gary Cahill, the England and Bolton defender, are targets. Redknapp also senses the same aggressive tactics that saw City famously fail in attempts to sign Kaka from Milan, before he joined Real Madrid, and John Terry from Chelsea.
"They can be a real force next year," he said. "They've got a strong squad which is only going to get better now, because they've got unlimited funds to buy anybody, and can pay the wages. They've got players earning £200,000 a week. I mean, it's crazy, isn't it? It's another world really, isn't it?"
Redknapp has forgotten or is choosing to ignore Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules or, of course, could be trying to encourage and scare the Spurs' owners into backing him financially this summer. Publically he Redknapp accepts he cannot compete with City in terms of transfer fees and wages but insists he can bring players to White Hart Lane who can make a difference.
"If we can manoeuvre one or two, let one or two go out of the squad and bring one or two who can make the difference, we'll be right there again," Redknapp said. "Manchester United picked one up for not a lot of money, the little Mexican boy Javier Hernandez, he's been amazing hasn't he?"
Bentley, who Redknapp has previously accused of disrespect with his ice-bucket antics, is among the players Redknapp wants to sell. He started one league game this season before being loaned to Birmingham City.
"David Bentley's gone to Birmingham and it hasn't been great for him," Redknapp said. "Robbie Keane's gone to West Ham and not been regular. So I'm sure the boys will be back and so we'll end up with an awful lot of players here again."
Redknapp has seen his side go from title contenders to potentially missing out on the Europa League. Dropping points against all of the bottom four since their famous win over Milan has undermined their chances of finishing ahead of City again. And Redknapp feels this season has been a missed opportunity to secure Champions League qualification.
"It will take a miracle," he said, with Spurs six points behind City. "We had our chances but haven't been able to win. We've been drawing games. We've lost that little spark that makes the difference between draws and turning them into wins. We had a great chance when you look at the fixtures this year but we are not the only team who can say that.
"You can look at the other teams who had a great chance to win the League and have thrown it away and blown it so it's happened to everybody. We can all say, 'If only...'"
Redknapp has seen Rafael van der Vaart fade and admitted Gareth Bale has struggled recently. "In the last month [since returning from a back injury] he hasn't quite been the same boy and he's been finding his feet again," he said. "Now he's got this injury [ruptured ankle ligaments] and it will knock him out again [this time for the season]."
Ideally, Redknapp wants leaders to improve his squad. He is an admirer of Scott Parker and failed in a bid to land Phil Neville during the January transfer window. He looks at Manchester United and the way their players can influence a squad.
"That team is run by the players," he said. "If someone is on a mobile phone or on an iPad then they're in trouble. Alex [Ferguson] hasn't got to keep coming in and saying, 'I'm fining you because you're on a mobile phone'.
"Every club needs that, needs leaders and that's why I went for Phil Neville. He's that type of character and I felt he would be a good character to have in. I'm not saying we haven't got it, we have got it but you can't have too many of those sort of people."Reuse content