Antonio Conte said Tottenham Hotspur still need time to become a European force after bowing out in the last 16 of the Champions League 1-0 on aggregate to AC Milan after a 0-0 draw on Wednesday.
A European elimination hot on the heels of an exit from the FA Cup means Spurs’ 15-year wait to win a trophy will extend for at least another season.
Conte’s return to the touchline failed to inspire a response from his side as Tottenham were toothless in attack and had to play the final 12 minutes a man down as Cristian Romero was sent off for two bookable offences.
“I’m really sorry for the fans, but we cannot invent the win or to hope for a miracle one day that a trophy goes into our training ground,” said the Spurs boss, who had been recovering from gallbladder surgery in Italy.
“We have to build and have patience. I understand the fans don’t have patience as for a long time Tottenham is not winning.”
Kick-off was delayed by 10 minutes after the late arrival of both sides due to traffic congestion, but it took far longer for the contest to get going.
Conte was his usual animated self and was shown a yellow card by referee Clement Turpin for his protestations at a booking for Clement Lenglet.
However, his players lacked the same energy as Spurs failed to rise to the occasion.
Tottenham have now won just two of their last seven games, including defeat by second-tier Sheffield United in the FA Cup.
Conte’s contract expires at the end of the season and he did little to quash speculation that he will leave at the end of the campaign.
“The situation is really clear. It is one year and three months since I became coach of Tottenham, I always said the same things,” he said.
“We need time and patience because we don’t have a solid foundation to be competitive to win in my opinion.
“At the moment the club knows very well my thoughts and I have a great relationship with my chairman… Now we have to finish the season. I’m happy to work in Tottenham but at the end we’ll make a decision.”
Milan, meanwhile, can dare to dream about going all the way in the Champions League, coach Stefano Pioli said.
“I like to think there’s nothing impossible in sport,” he added.
“Clearly, only the best in Europe remain, and each round gets more difficult, but I am sure that all the European experiences, especially the negative ones – help us step up a level.
“Now we must go into the quarter-final with confidence and belief.”
Milan have booked their spot in the last eight with Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Benfica, while the remaining four teams will be decided next week.