Tottenham Hotspur: Why Spurs Must Take the Europa League Seriously
Everyone likes to see young players getting the opportunity to prove their worth in competitive matches. After all, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and the rest of the world's best players were all youngsters at one point, looking for that opportunity to break through and show their talents to the world.
But when you're Tottenham Hotspur, a modest team whose goal for each of the last few seasons has been to qualify for the Champions League, a competition like the Europa League ought to be taken seriously.
Last season, Harry Redknapp's Tottenham should've easily qualified from their Europa League group, but Redknapp didn't field lineups strong enough to do so. Here's why Andre Villas-Boas should not do the same.
1. Opportunity For Fringe Players
It's understandably hard for players like Gareth Bale to start a league match, start in a Europa League match in the middle of the week and start another league match the following weekend, all while maintaining a high standard of play.
Such a schedule is sure to wear out and fatigue any player.
But that doesn't mean AVB has to play just youth players. Especially this season, Tottenham should have a decent assembly of bench players and reserves to call upon for Europa League matches.
Kyle Naughton, William Gallas, Danny Rose, Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, David Bentley, Iago Falque, Andros Townsend, Giovani Dos Santos, Harry Kane and Jermaine Defoe are all excellent reserves who are unlikely to be regular starters for Tottenham in the EPL.
As such, the Europa League will be a welcome opportunity for these players to get playing time and show off their talents to impress AVB or prospective employers.
That's not to say that the Europa League teams AVB fields should be just youth and fringe players, but a nice combination of a couple of starters, a core of fringe players and a couple of youth players should see the teams through the group stage.
From there, AVB can reanalyze Spurs' priorities, and possibly start fielding stronger lineups with the intention of winning the whole competition.
2. Silverware & Money
Yes, the Europa League may be a joke in terms of payout compared to the Champions League, but there's still good money to be won. A team that wins the tournament stands to make €4.6 million in addition to the €1-2 million generated in the group stage. That's enough money to make at least one or two solid additional transfers in the summer transfer window.
Compare that with the paltry payout of £100,000 that goes out to the Carling Cup's winner, or even the £2 million that goes to the FA Cup's winner. The Europa League is clearly the more financially lucrative tournament.
More importantly, winning the Europa League, for a club like Tottenham, would be a significant achievement for the club. As much as some may not like to admit it, it would take a series of miracles for Tottenham to win the Premier League.
The Europa League represents an opportunity to win a competition full of strong, competitive teams who are happy to give their all to secure Europe's second-most prestigious continental title. It would allow the club's players, staff and administrators to have a piece of silverware to hold to the fans and future investors and say, "hey, we're Tottenham, and we're capable of winning competitions."
Being able to sell that winning mentality, whether you're selling it as a player, a manager or an administrator, is a crucial asset in the world of football.
3. Global Recognition
This point sort of flows from the last one, but as maligned as the Europa League is by its detractors, the fact remains that it is Europe's second-most prestigious title.
By the end of the competition, the winner is frequently recognized as one of Europe's best teams (see Porto in 2010-11) and enjoys much greater publicity as a result.
The team becomes known across Europe, and this helps the club gain more fans and more lucrative sponsorships. It makes the club a more desirable place to transfer to, and less desirable to leave.
There's a saying that winning often papers over any and all cracks or problems with a club. Were Tottenham to win the Europa League, this would likely delay any individual player requests to leave the club by a year, and help it grow stronger in its quest to become an EPL fixture in the Champions League.
For Tottenham, getting into the Champions League via the English Premier League is and always should be the club's number one priority. But in this day in age, major clubs don't focus all their efforts on one competition; they allocate a certain portion of their resources and effort on other competitions as well.
Tottenham have the squad and resources to compete in multiple competitions. As such, there's no need to reduce the Europa League to nothing more than a youth tournament. There's so much more to gain from it than that, if only Tottenham's staff and administrators would realize it.
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