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DUBAI // A series of swashbuckling displays in their Uefa Champions League debut season has seen Tottenham Hotspur capture the attention of Europe's biggest clubs. But were it not for a headed goal by Peter Crouch last May, it could well have been Manchester City savouring a last-16 second leg tie with AC Milan.
Abu Dhabi-owned City have invested heavily since they slipped to a 1-0 defeat at home to Spurs in what several media outlets billed as "the £50 million match". The result saw City compete in the Europa League, while Tottenham have gone head to head with the continent's best teams.
But as City spent big to acquire the likes of Edin Dzeko, Mario Ballotelli and David Silva, Tottenham have been forced to rely on being shrewd in the transfer window, bringing in among others Rafael van der Vaart and Steven Pienaar for relatively smaller fees.
Redknapp, in Dubai as Spurs enjoy a week of warm weather training, says his rivals' spending means the chase for a top-four finish will be even tougher this year and that City will be crowned Premier League champions within three years.
"It'll be lovely if we can [qualify for the Champions League] again," he said. "But it'll be tough because Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchestern City: they are all powerful teams. It is very difficult to stay in that top four. Their wage bill would be in far excess of our wage bill for sure; you look at City's squad and it is frightening.
"If you want to attract a Dzeko, you can't compete with Man City. Because of the wages they can pay, everybody at the moment wants to go to Man City and it's a great club to go to. They will win the championship in two or three years, for sure."
Spurs inability to compete with City in the transfer market is being further hindered as the club searches for a solution to their ill-equipped stadium. White Hart Lane has a capacity of 36,000 and a season ticket waiting list of more than 20,000 fans. But their application to move to the 60-000-seat Olympic Stadium in Stratford was denied, meaning the club is now exploring alternative options.
"We need to strengthen one or two positions in the summer if we are going to push on, but it's difficult because wage-wise we can't compete with the top teams because we have a stadium that only holds 36,000. We can't pay the wages that City and Chelsea offer," Redknapp said. "If players are being offered £150,000 [Dh893,937] a week at Man City, they are not going to come to Tottenham if we are offering them £60,000. It makes it harder. You can't expect the owners to keep funding everything.
"If you want to bring top, top players in you need to pay them top, top money. We're never going to get a [Sergio] Aguero because we need a new stadium that will hold 60,000 people first."
The Spurs manager, however, added that following Liverpool's 3-1 defeat to West Ham United on Sunday that the chase for qualification into Europe's elite tournament is now between Spurs, Man City and Chelsea.
"It's between us three now for those two places. The top five now, will be the top five at the end of the season for sure. With Liverpool losing again, it's five teams looking for Champions League football next year. It is so important for us and we want to get it again," he said.
Tottenham are enjoying some light training in Dubai this week in a bid to lessen the squad's lengthy injury list. Yesterday they trained at Rashid Stadium, home of Al Ahli, the Pro League side who were linked with a move for Redknapp last summer.
The former Portsmouth coach, who has been tipped to succeed Fabio Capello as England's head coach, confirmed he received an offer from Ahli and refused to rule out a move in the future
"There was [a contract offer] and I was intrigued," said Redknapp, who found time to attend the Dubai Tennis Championships final on Saturday. "I love coming here. It's a great way of life; it's safe, no trouble, you can do things, you can go out in the open. I was interested."
For now though, his focus is on continuing Spurs' run in the Champions League and ensuring they return to compete on the continent's grandest stage again next season.