With Gareth Bale on the verge of completing this summer’s blockbuster transfer to Spanish giants Real Madrid, for a fee widely reported to be around the £85 million mark, Tottenham Hotspur and their ever shrewd chairman Daniel Levy, have a significant hole to fill, but a significant war-chest with which to do so.
Levy's first matter of business is the Bale deal itself, and in an ideal world, Spurs would like a cash-plus-player deal, in the region of £50m-£70m plus one or even two Real stars.
Many names have been linked to be involved in this deal, but the four main Spurs targets are likely to be Argentinian winger Angel Di Maria, Portuguese full-back Fabio Coentrao, former Spurs midfielder Luka Modric, and young Spanish striker Alvaro Morata.
Capturing Di Maria in part-exchange would be the ideal situation for Spurs, and an opportunity that Di Maria himself may well be interested in. With Bale arriving in Madrid, Di Maria would find himself in competition with the two most valuable players in the history of the game, in Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, added to that the diminutive German Mesut Ozil, and newly acquired wonderkid Isco.
With that level of competition, it is conceivable that Di Maria's first team action this season may be limited, a situation which would not arise if he moved to north London.
At Spurs, Di Maria would go a long way to filling the void created by Bale's departure. Di Maria, has pace, trickery, an eye for goal, and heaps of experience, even at the age of just 25.
Another feasible option is Fabio Coentrao, after a number of eye-catching performances at the 2010 World Cup, Real Madrid splashed the cash to bring the Portuguese left Back to the Bernabeu, however Coentrao has had a mixed few years to say the least, and last season more often than not found himself playing second fiddle to the more flamboyant Brazilian Marcelo.
Coentrao is a more steady full back, better defensively than Marcelo, though slightly more reserved in an attacking sense; however he would be a welcome addition at White Hart Lane. Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Spurs' current left back, is arguably the weak link in the Spurs back four, with Kyle Walker excelling at right-back, and Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul steady at centre-back. Coentrao is certainly an improvement in that department.
The more romantic move, for Spurs fans, would be the return of Luka Modric, who left Spurs for Spain in similar circumstances last year. Modric found life at the Bernabeu tough going early on in his career, before growing into his role more in the second half of the season, most notably perhaps for his performance when coming on in the Champions League tie at Old Trafford, where he helped turn the tie in Madrid's favour.
Modric was most definitely a Mourinho signing, and a lot of talk suggested that Ancelotti may not favour him, however in a recent press conference; the Italian manager stated that "He [Modric] is a very important player for us and he will be here this season."
A final name that has filled the gossip columns in recent days is that of highly rated Spanish under 21 international Alvaro Morata. Morata, touted as the next big thing in Spain, is a 20 year old striker who has already starred for Spain at youth level.
He won the golden boot at the 2011 European Under 19 Championship and this year’s European Under 21 Championship. With the signing of fellow Spanish striker Roberto Soldado, from Valencia, Spurs are not as thin on the ground in the striking department as they were, however with Emmanuel Adebayor looking increasingly likely to leave, with Turkey a possible destination, Morata would fit in nicely at Spurs, though with his obvious talent, Madrid will be reluctant to allow the talented twenty year old to leave.
Such is the magnitude of this deal, even with one or more of these players joining Spurs as makeweights, Daniel Levy and Andre Villas-Boas will still have anywhere between £50m-£70m to spend on talent, with four key areas needing strengthening, A replacement for Bale, a left back, a centre back and another striker.
Should Di Maria not join Tottenham, then another left winger will be essential. Atletico Miniero winger Bernard would appear to be Spurs' first choice. The Brazilian, who at the age of 20 has already received 5 senior caps, has been the subject of various bids from European clubs (one from Shakhtar Donetsk which Bernard has snubbed) as Miniero look to cash in on their prized asset.
A fee in the region of £20m should be enough to secure the player, who seems intent on a switch to England, though competition for his signature is likely to come from North London rivals Arsenal.
Similarly, if Coentrao does not end up at White Hart Lane, a left back will also become a priority. According to The Mirror, Villas-Boas has identified Real Sociedad full back Alberto de la Bella as the answer to this issue.
De la Bella was an instrumental part of the Sociedad side which shocked Spain by clinching a Champions League berth last season, and would prove a dependable and relatively inexpensive acquisition.
Earlier this week Spurs announced the sale of promising England centre back Steven Caulker to Cardiff City, a surprising move which now leaves Spurs short of numbers at centre-half, with only Dawson, Vertonghen and Kaboul there as recognised senior centre backs, and with Vertonghen likely to miss the start of the season, and Kaboul missing most of last season, Spurs look thin on the ground.
However steps have been put in place already, with Spurs looking set to add Romanian international Vlad Chiriches, for a fee of around £7m.
The final missing piece is another striker, despite Soldado's arrival, Adebayor's probable departure leaves Spurs with only Soldado and Defoe as senior options.
This is the position where Spurs will likely make a 'marquee' signing, there are a few top quality strikers available or unsettled currently, who Spurs may be interested in. They may wish to become embroiled in the Luis Suarez fiasco, and snatch the Uruguayan from under the nose of Arsene Wenger, with Spurs perhaps more willing to splash the cash than the notoriously penny-pinching Frenchman.
Wayne Rooney is another unsettled striker, and though Chelsea are interested, Manchester United are unlikely to sell to such a major rival, and with interest from abroad seemingly non-existent, and with an unhappy player potentially disrupting the dressing room, David Moyes may see selling Rooney to a team such as Spurs, a better option.
A more likely target currently resides in the other half of Manchester, in the form of Edin Dzeko. Dzeko faces the tough task of climbing to the top of a pecking order which includes new big-money signings Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic, as well as Sergio Aguero, a near impossible feat. The Bosnian also enjoys playing at White Hart Lane, scoring four times in a 5-1 City victory in 2011.
Should Spurs be able to use the generated funds from the Bale deal wisely, and address these four issues, then while Bale will indeed be sorely missed, Spurs may well be able to progress without him and challenge once again for that coveted fourth place.
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