Has Tottenham’s long and regularly frustrating search for a centre forward come to an end? Fans of the north London outfit have been forced to contend with the transfer saga surrounding Emmanuel Adebayor this summer; the banalities of will-he-won’t-he reports have been splashed across traditional and new media for what seems like months now.
Roman Pavlyuchenko, Robbie Keane, and Peter Crouch have all left the club in the last year with only Louis Saha coming on temporary loan to step into the gap and help out Emmanuel Adebayor, another loanee last season.
Now with Saha and Adebayor no longer at the club, Jermain Defoe cuts a rather lonely figure on the club’s website as the sole occupant in the section marked ‘strikers’.
Upon taking up the job Andre Villas-Boas was fairly straight-forward in revealing who he wanted to bring into attack. Andy Carroll? “No, no, no” came the response, almost with a half smile that hinted at what he thought of the Liverpool striker’s form in recent months. Emanuel Adebayor? “We are extremely willing to have Adebayor on board with us.” That's that then.
And a week later, when reports came through that a deal had been done for a cut-price fee for the Togolese striker, just days after deals for Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson were completed things looked rosy at White Hart Lane.
But, since then, nothing. Not a dickybird. The rumour-mill has been in over-drive but no new announcements have been made and time is now starting to run out. Malaga’s Jose Salomon Rondon has been and gone, a move for Loic Remy went the same way as Harry Redknapp, and Giuseppe Rossi, Daniel Sturridge and Gaston Ramirez have all been written about without any concrete developments.
Yesterday though there did appear to be some movement. Leandro Damiao, a long-term target of Spurs’, could be making the move to north London, according to various media reports.
This one was slightly different than the usual rumours. Tottenham’s long standing interest in Damaio is well-known (they had a bid of around £14 million turned down in January) and their ‘strong partnership’ – feeder clubs are prohibited in English - that helped facilitate Sandro’s move to Spurs means that a deal is perfectly feasible.
Along with many of Brazil’s attacking line-up, Damaio has looked impressive in helping the Selecao reach the final of the Olympic football tournament in recent weeks. His six goals so far in the tournament have certainly showcased his finishing ability.
But it is for more than his goals that Tottenham (and other major clubs) are chasing the 23-year-old striker, although after a disastrous spell in the second half of last season, they will no doubt be welcome.
The beauty of the Brazilian is his versatility in as much that he is a classic front man who will get you goals, a fine target man to hold up the ball with a splash of Brazilian flair to boot; his rainbow flick is something to behold.
Spurs, under Villas-Boas, are after a big man (although not a target man per-se) in the mould of Adebayor or Didier Drogba to help compliment the two inside forward-style players the Portuguese coach likes to deploy. Damiao, at just over six foot, is not the most intimidating of figures and must improve his hold up play, especially with his back to goal , but his all-round game has come on leaps and bounds as he continues to impress for Inter.
It is remarkable to consider that he wasn’t picked up by his club and playing top-tier football until 2010. The man who scored in the final of the Copa Libertadores that year as Inter won the trophy for just the second time in their history was a late bloomer indeed. Now he is flying and in the 2012 season before his departure for London he scored 20 goals in 29 games for his club, and made his international debut last year.
Given his trajectory his price is likely to rocket sky high as time goes on, so Tottenham have at least got it right making a move this summer.
In the past Manchester United, Arsenal and Juventus have been linked with the hitman, and for a brief while he seemed destined for the Premier League.
The links to United always seemed somewhat tenuous; Sir Alex Ferguson is well-stocked in the striking department and has his eye on Robin van Persie above anyone else at the moment.
In the merry-go-round that is the summer transfer window that could have potentially seen Arsenal make a move should Van Persie depart, but once again having already landed Olivier Giroud and Lucas Podolski they are in no rush to snap up another forward.
So Spurs are in the driving seat for his signature, although that far from guarantees a deal - with Damaio it is not on his talent on which any transfer would hinge, it is the complexities behind the scenes.
As mentioned, Tottenham’s partnership with Internacional will help lubricate the wheels of any deal, but that wasn’t exactly helpful in persuading Oscar make the move to White Hart Lane.
Internacional’s structure is such that they survive by cultivating youngsters and selling them for a maximum price like many other South American clubs. That model was slightly undermined by a release-clause in Oscar’s contract that put his value at around £25 million – after his performances at the Olympics they may well have been able to hold out for a slightly higher figure – and that could have a bearing on Damiao’s future.
Although Inter’s financial troubles are well documented will they be willing to sell off their two leading lights in one summer? Unlikely although the noises coming from South America are that they are open to being persuaded if the price is right, which should be around the £20 million mark. As the club say themselves, they are ‘open to every opportunity’ once the Olympics are over but an agreement won't be easy and time is running out for Tottenham.
What is sure though is that the striker is the perfect foil to a more flair-orientated player, just like Oscar at club level and with Neymar for his country – and Tottenham should have the perfect line up for him to fit in to.
Of course the impending departure of Luka Modric mean that a creative midfielder is a necessity for the Lilywhites this summer, but with Gareth Bale, Rafael Van der Vaart and Gylfi Sigurdsson all roving creative types, chances should not be hard to come by next season, and if Damiao does make the switch he is the right man to put them away.
Ironically, perhaps the most defining issue that could affect Damiao’s move to north London is the sale of Modric. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is said to be keen to cash in before splashing out, and with Real Madrid playing hard ball over the Croatian, it is a case of who blinks first before any deal can be done.
Hugo Lloris’ agent and father Luc has already revealed the French ‘keeper’s move is being held up by the Modric saga so Spurs may be getting twitchy to get their squad in place as soon as possible, something that Inter may be able to play on. There has been plenty of rumours flying around so far,and expect more to come before anything conclusive is announced. There is no doubting Damiao's quality - but whether an agreement can be reached really is in the lap of the gods.
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