Chelsea might still get Mourinho but would Falcao follow?
Roberto Di Matteo was candid in his assessment of the club's incoming transfer business last summer. Without the Champions League triumph, the former manager said, which overrode the travails in the Premier League to put them back in Europe's elite competition, they would not have been able to sign Eden Hazard or Oscar. There would be no bailout this time if they were to fall short of the top four and it would not be outlandish to suggest that they could lack the trump card to attract the likes of Radamel Falcao and Hulk, the glamour attacking targets. José Mourinho is expected to be a different story. The manager is set to return from Real Madrid and, having initially worried about the possible lack of Champions League football, it no longer appears to be a concern. You suspect he might even enjoy the novelty of the Europa League, particularly as it would not be his fault. The club's pursuit of Marouane Fellaini from Everton should also be unaffected but that of Falcao could become complicated.
A Europa League campaign is no basis for a title challenge
The demands of Thursday-Sunday football ought not to be a massive problem but there is something that does not quite scan for Premier League players, something that is mildly disorientating. Rafael Benítez, the interim Chelsea manager, has a more scientific explanation. With only two clear days before a Sunday league game, there is only time for a warm-down and a warm-up, with nothing in between for a more constructive training session. The situation can be better in the Champions League in terms of preparation for a weekend league fixture, particularly as some of the ties in the competition are played on Tuesdays.
The club would feel the pressure of financial fair play
In the wake of Didier Drogba's winning penalty in last season's Champions League final, Chelsea estimated that the triumph was worth up to £100m. It allowed them to splash the cash on the transfer market. But a theme of recent times at Stamford Bridge has been the surgery on the wage bill and if the lack of Champions League football would principally affect prestige, the related loss of income would also constrict spending as FFP comes into force. Gate receipts would surely drop, too, in a potential Europa League group phase campaign, if the far-from-sold-out home crowds in this season's knockout rounds of the competition are any guide.
Gareth Bale's future
In the eyes of his peers and the football press, Bale has been the best player in England this season. In the eyes of Zinedine Zidane, the Real Madrid ambassador, the Wales forward has been the best player in Uefa club competition. It is safe to say that Bale is ready to grace next season's Champions League and it is also known that he is desperate to do so on a regular basis, partly because he is realistic about his chances of playing in major international tournaments with his country. André Villas-Boas, the Tottenham manager, has gone from saying that the club need a top-four finish to keep Bale to presenting a defiant stance that the player will stay regardless. The noises from those close to Bale in recent weeks have softened regarding a possible transfer. But without Champions League football there would be temptation, at the very least and Spurs may come to feel vulnerable. The loss of their superstar would be unthinkable.
End-of-season shortcomings become pathological
In an off-cut from Saturday's interview in the Guardian, the Tottenham left-back Benoît Assou-Ekotto said that, under Harry Redknapp, the moment that the season's final whistle sounded, "the muscles just went because you would have played an amazing number of games". This time out, Villas-Boas has rested and rotated more but there has still been a wobble over the past two months which has recalled the slumps that gripped to calamitous effect under Redknapp towards the end of the previous two Premier League campaigns. Villas-Boas has admitted that, rightly or wrongly, the season will be judged on whether a top-four finish can be secured. Failure stands to bring psychological scars.
Another Europa League campaign would feel like a slog
One of Villas-Boas's tricks on his debut season at Tottenham has been to rebrand Europe's second-tier cup competition in the eyes of the supporters. By naming strong teams and making it clear that it was a trophy he wanted to win, he generated momentum and excitement. But it would surely be a tougher sell were he and the club to return to a Europa League group featuring opposition from, say, Greece and Slovenia, as happened this season. With their slick new training ground and the progress (albeit slow) on a new stadium, Tottenham feel like a club that is who are going places. They enjoyed a taste from Europe's top table in 2010-11 and they are ready for another bite. Contesting the Europa League would be like running to stand still.