Tottenham Hotspur could now delay the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid until after Sunday's north London derby against Arsenal. Spurs are adamant that despite agreeing a deal in principle to sell Bale to Real for 90 million pounds they will not release the forward until a replacement is signed.
There is little doubt that Bale will be a Real player for a world-record fee by the time that the transfer window closes on Sept 2 but senior sources suggested last night it could go into the final two days of the window. Real had hoped to unveil the player today.
Real have negotiated a straight cash deal with Spurs having also discussed the possibility of selling players to them as part of the negotiations. The Premier League club, despite reaching an agreement at a summit meeting last Wednesday involving Real president Florentino Perez, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, technical director Franco Baldini and Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett, will not be railroaded into an announcement. Spurs ratified the deal over the weekend even though Levy continued to insist that there was no financial pressure to sell Bale despite a summer of heavy spending. Instead, Spurs accept there is no point keeping the 24-year-old, who is determined to leave, especially as Real are prepared to bid so high.
The timetable has been slowed by Spurs' failure to sign Willian, whose move to White Hart Lane was hijacked by Chelsea in a 30 million pounds deal.
Spurs would like to sign Juan Mata - who was left out of Chelsea's starting XI for last night's league match away to Manchester United - but know that a bid would be rebuffed. Spurs have agreed a payment schedule with Real, with the Spanish giants having agreed to covering the fee in three bullet payments. If they were to renege on the agreement the fee would rise substantially, although if they were to pay up early they would receive a discount. Bale is due back in London today having spent the Bank Holiday weekend in Malaga ahead of his move and Spurs have taken a dim view of Real erecting scaffolding at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, in preparation for an unveiling, and also selling Bale No11 shirts.
Nevertheless the deal is expected finally to go ahead and Tottenham's claim yesterday that at least one more bid had been received for the Wales -international has been greeted with scepticism. Manchester United quickly distanced themselves from any suggestion they might be trying to hijack the deal, while Paris St-Germain did not respond to requests for comment. Manchester City also have the clout to meet the asking price but, like United, they insisted they had made no such move. Bale has also set his heart on a move to Real and Levy does not want to sell to another Premier League club. Spurs are, however, determined to sign a high-profile replacement for Bale before releasing the player, with talks ongoing to secure the Roma winger Erik Lamela in a deal worth up to 30million pounds.
The 21-year-old was last night expected to fly to London today to finalise a five-year contract, with Tottenham paying an initial pounds 25.8?million plus a potential 4.2 million pounds in add-ons. Lamela was an unused substitute in Roma's 2-0 victory over Livorno at the weekend, fuelling speculation his move to Spurs was imminent. Spurs would want another player in addition to the Argentina international and have discussed a move for Brazilian international Hulk, who plays for Zenit St Petersburg. Bale is set to agree a six-year deal at Real worth around pounds 8.5?million a season and Spurs have played hardball in securing bank guarantees from Real having earlier been doubtful of the funding of the deal.
Real played away to Granada last night and are at home to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday in what had been hoped would be Bale's debut appearance. That might now be delayed, depending on who Spurs sign. Spurs have also reached agreement to acquire central defender Vlad Chiriches from Steaua Bucharest for around pounds 8 million. Meanwhile, Roberto Soldado, Tottenham Hotspur's 26 million pounds record signing, has predicted that Andre Villas-Boas's side will be "strong and competitive" this season even without Bale and promised that there was much more to come from the new-look team.
The club have recorded three straight wins while Bale has been pushing for his move, and Soldado has already put himself forward as the new hero of the Spurs fans by scoring four goals, including match-winners against both Crystal Palace and Swansea. Villas-Boas himself has noted a "new mentality" among his players and believes that, collectively, his team look sharper this season despite the absence of Bale. Soldado has also been enthused and there is tangible confidence ahead of Sunday's derby against Arsenal. "The first few games I think are the hardest of the season and we have played well, but we can still improve a lot," said Soldado. "I think this is quite a strong squad and a competitive team and that can only be a good thing for us." He added: "It's the most beautiful derby, the one with the biggest rivalry for Tottenham and I cannot wait to play in this environment."