Harry Redknapp wasted no time in trying to book his flight to Madrid, for a scouting trip he might only have dreamed of in the not too distant past.
At the back of his mind, however, was the need to avoid humiliation.
"Real are playing Atlético and I am going to go back to Madrid to see if I can get mugged again," the Tottenham Hotspur manager said, referring to his last trip to the Spanish capital, when he had his pocket picked outside the Vicente Calderón stadium. "They know I had a few quid on me last time and they are waiting for me. The boys will be out there, saying: 'Where's that mug?' I'm going to take Joe Jordan with me this time."
Redknapp's quip about his assistant related to the Scot's recently reinforced reputation as a hardman. No one at Spurs can quite believe that Jordan has been banned by Uefa for one European match after he was headbutted by the Milan captain, Gennaro Gattuso. "Seriously, what is Joe supposed to have done?" Redknapp said. "He has been banned for being nutted. It's crazy."
Redknapp, though, was quickly back into his stride. "Joe won't have any money on him," he warned any Bernabéu thieves. "Joe also said to me that he had never been to the Bernabéu ... I told him, 'You're not going to make it this time, either.'"
Redknapp is buzzing with excitement and so are his players, particularly Rafael van der Vaart, who was out of his seat when Tottenham were drawn with Real Madrid, his former club, in the Champions League quarter-finals. "Tottenham against Madrid for a place in the last four of Europe's elite competition." The club's supporters cannot say the sentence enough and the sense of pride is palpable.
"Real Madrid are a great name in world football," Redknapp said. "I remember watching the 1960 European Cup final on TV, when they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3, with Puskas, Di Stefáno, Gento ... Real were the team in world football."
The modern vintage is not too bad, either, and Redknapp will enjoy pitting his wits against José Mourinho, a manager he described as "one of the all-time greats." Mourinho has his team five points behind Barcelona in La Liga with ten matches to play and one of them is El Clásico at the Bernabéu on 17 April.
"I wasn't close to José when he was in England but I respected him. And when you speak to people like young Frank [Lampard], he said he was fantastic. You look at what he achieved at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan ... he has an amazing record. I like his style. He has real personality and I thought he livened up the place when he was here."
Redknapp admires Mourinho's man-management. "José gets the best out of players – players want to play for him," he said. "You saw how upset the Inter players were when he left them after last season's Champions League final and it was like that at Chelsea, too. The players loved him and he loved English football."
It would not surprise Redknapp were Mourinho to return to the Premier League. The Portuguese has been touted as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor at Manchester United. A more outlandish theory has him coming to Tottenham when Redknapp leaves for England. "I could tell you why he won't come here," Redknapp said, leaving the audience to speculate about his frustration at the chairman Daniel Levy's tight wage structure.
But when Spurs play Madrid, the mouth-watering match-ups will not be in the dugouts. Real's attacking threats have panache, beginning with Cristiano Ronaldo, Mezut Ozil and Karim Benzema but Redknapp said that the Spanish club would be wary of his main men too. The stage is set for Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Van der Vaart.
"Let's not kid ourselves," Redknapp said. "They know the damage that some of our players can cause. We feel we can play against anybody."
Tottenham have done things the hard way on their Champions League debut. After flirting with disaster in the play-off round, on the artificial pitch of Young Boys of Bern, they were placed in what Redknapp felt was the toughest group, which contained the champions, Internazionale. It felt as if Milan in the last 16 was no reward for progressing as group winners . If they can get past Madrid, it is likely that Barcelona will bar the path to the Wembley final.
Yet Redknapp and Tottenham have shown a relish for taking on the biggest names, an ability to be inspired rather than intimidated, and they will approach the Madrid tie with the exuberance that has carried them this far. Redknapp said that he wanted to get back to White Hart Lane for the second leg with his team's hopes still alive. Humiliation will not come into it.
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