Tottenham winger Gareth Bale has spoken of his frustration at missing out on playing in next season's Champions League, describing the club's failure to qualify for Europe's premier club competition as a "massive blow".
Bale, 21, starred in the 2010-11 campaign as Spurs reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League at their first attempt, recording famous victories over 2010 champions Inter Milan and their city rivals AC Milan along the way.
The Welshman produced two particularly memorable displays against Inter, scoring a hat-trick in a 4-3 defeat at the San Siro, before inspiring Harry Redknapp's side to a 3-1 win at White Hart Lane int he group stage.
But the halcyon days of their debut season in the Champions League are now well and truly behind Spurs and after struggling to balance the rigours of elite European football and the bread and butter of the Premier League,the north Londoners will find themselves competing in the Europa League next season.
"It's a massive blow," Bale told Goal.com. "We have enjoyed the last season in the Champions League; playing at the big stadiums against the big teams and it's going to be disappointing [not to be in it again] but in a way that will give us motivation for next season to try and qualify again.
"We had a great run in the Champions League and obviously it's not nice to get knocked out but I don't think we expected to get to the final. I think everybody enjoyed the run; it would have been nice to get further but it was one of those things - we got knocked out by the better team on the night."
Bale scooped the PFA Player of the Year crown for his performances in the 2010-11 season, but the former Southampton winger has pointed to team-mate Rafael Van der Vaart as the man he feels made the most impact for Spurs after arriving from Real Madrid last August.
"You've got a world class player who's played in World Cups and has done pretty much everything in the game," Bale said. "He's played at Real Madrid, the biggest club in the world, and he's been there and done it, and he's brought some extra special class to our team.
"He's been a great signing for us, especially for the price he came in for, he's been probably the best signing of the season. He's brought another dimension to the team; something that has really helped us this season."