You have to travel all the way back to 2011 to revisit the last time Tottenham were in a Champions League quarter-final. It’s fair to say it won’t bring back happy memories for Tottenham fans – but it perhaps puts into perspective the phenomenal strides they have made.
For many at Tottenham, the 2010-11 season represents sheer nostalgia in what was a truly exciting time to be a fan. Where Tottenham now believe – and rightly so – they belong amongst the fierce battle of the European elite, the memorable season was an entirely different proposition.
A moment in time – Tottenham vs Real, Madrid, 2011
Elation as a consequence of the utter disbelief upon reaching the last eight of the prestigious competition was cut abruptly short by a 5-0 aggregate thrashing at the hands of the European titans, Real Madrid.
After a quite extraordinary route to the quarter-final, consisting of wins against both Inter and AC Milan, Tottenham found themselves a goal and a man down after just 14 minutes in the first leg. Emmanuel Adebayor, who of course later made the seemingly implausible transfer to Tottenham, scoring two goals in a 4-0 annihilation.
Despite world-class operators in Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael Van Der Vaart patrolling the midfield, there was a fragility about Tottenham, encapsulated by their nervousness and immaturity. It must be said that the Madrid team was, at worst, star-studded – consisting of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Xabi Alonso – three genuine legends of the game.
But losing 4-0 in the first leg was still a bitter pill to swallow.
The second leg was slightly less humiliating, but offered little to laugh about – other than a rather characteristic mistake from Heurelho Gomes that perhaps summed up the occasion and ultimately destroyed any slight hope of a late miracle. A 1-0 defeat at the hands of Madrid nothing to cry about, but 5-0 overall showed the true gulf in class between Tottenham and those at the top of the pecking order.
Eight years later, Tottenham again find themselves in the quarter-final of the Champions League. This time however, against English opposition in Manchester City. Where favourable draws were indeed avoided, Tottenham again entered the tie as significant underdogs. The first leg performance couldn’t have been more different, however.
Tottenham performed with maturity, both defensively and in attack. Yes, an early City penalty miss was a let-off, but Tottenham subsequently never looked back. Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld marshalled the defence, keeping Sergio Aguero distinctly quiet. Although a potentially season-ending injury to talisman Harry Kane placed a dent on the result, a 1-0 win places them in good stead for the second leg.
Whether Tottenham proceed to the semi-final or not, the performance in the first leg provides an indication of their stark improvement under the tenure of Mauricio Pochettino. With three out of three wins in the new stadium, Tottenham look once again on track. They must retain Champions League football to avoid stagnation and continue their progress, but this Tottenham team now has the belief and mentality to do big things.
The 2010-11 Champions League campaign was something of a fairytale. Tottenham exceeded all expectations, something they were unable to do for years to come. Fans will look back with fond memories, but understand they are now a totally different animal – one that looks ready for a battle to reach the last four.
Tottenham fans – what is your best memory of the 2010-11 Champions League campaign? Comment below…