Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has warned fans the club's future comes before the pursuit of Champions League qualification ahead of Spurs' opening group stage fixture at Werder Bremen on Tuesday.
Harry Redknapp's men edged out Manchester City for fourth place in last year's Premier League and then performed a stunning escape act against Young Boys of Bern in this season's play-off to reach the group stage.
With City spending big again over the summer and the likes of Aston Villa and Everton competing strongly over the years there is no guarantee Tottenham will get another chance in the competition any time soon.
Levy stated the club would not over-extend in the transfer market to try to lock down a place in the big time, a strategy that famously led to a stunning downfall for Leeds United last decade.
Levy said: "I think we all want to stay there but we all have to be realistic. There are only four places in England and there are seven or eight clubs competing. There are probably two clubs you could say are guaranteed to be in that top four. You then have two places for six clubs. The odds are stacked against you. But what we won't do is jeopardise the club to challenge to be one of those two. You can't run the club on the basis of being in the Champions League.
"I like to think it's important to run the club in the right way. It's not just about today; it's about the future generation of fans. You have to protect the club."
Meanwhile, Redknapp said it is up to his players to stand and up and be counted, insisting there was no pressure on him to prove himself despite his lack of experience in the Champions League.
"I don't go through my life thinking I've got to prove anything to anybody,'' Redknapp said. "I proved what I could do by getting them into fourth place from where we were. My record has not been too shabby. I never think I've got anything to prove. It's the players who have got prove it. I can only put them out there and pick the team. You haven't got to be a rocket scientist to pick the team. It's whether they can go out there and cope under pressure. We've got enough international players - we're full of internationals.''
Redknapp did acknowledge he was bound to learn something himself from his Champions League group stage debut, having already admitted he got his tactics wrong in the play-off round first leg at Young Boys. But he pointed out even Sir Alex Ferguson finds himself at the mercy of his players, citing Manchester United's capitulation from 3-1 up to draw 3-3 at Everton on Saturday.
"You never stop learning, do you?'' Redknapp said. "I'm sure Fergie learns all the time. You're sitting 3-1 up at Everton with two minutes to go. It doesn't matter if you're Alex Ferguson or who you are, there's nothing you can do.''