London: Andre Villas-Boas has admitted that the loss of Luka Modric to Real Madrid would be “dramatic” for Tottenham Hotspur if adequate midfield cover is not signed but he admitted he has ended all interest in Joao Moutinho, Yann M’Vila and Gaston Ramirez.
The manager confirmed that there had been a breakthrough in the talks with the Spanish champions over Modric’s proposed transfer and he is planning for the season without the Croat. But Villas-Boas will have to broaden his search for a new midfielder as Porto’s Moutinho, who has long been his priority target, seems to be too expensive. As a former Porto coach, Villas-Boas knows how the club’s president, Pinto da Costa, demands high prices for the players that he sells.
Villas-Boas said that Tottenham have “moved on” from M’Vila after seeing a £12m (Dh69 million) bid for him turned down by Rennes although he added that, as a more defensive midfielder, the France international was not the answer to the gap that Modric is set to leave. Bologna’s Ramirez, he noted, is a more advanced midfielder, and the club have sufficient strength on the flanks and in the No 10 position. Tottenham have had a £16m (£12.5m) offer rejected for the Uruguayan.
“No, it will be very difficult,” Villas-Boas said, when asked whether he wants to sign Moutinho. “It’s very difficult as the level of expectation of Porto would be very difficult. I have experience of Porto and it is a club that sells expensive but they sell a good product. They have a pride of defending that kind of brand. They know that what they sell triumphs at other clubs. It has been like that with numerous amounts of players and that is why it is very difficult.
“M’Vila is an interesting player but I don’t think he will join Tottenham. The player is a player of defensive characteristics. On the possible replacements for Luka, we are looking for a more creative player. I can’t lie to you. We had initial interest in the player but we have moved on from that one and are now looking for a more creative player because we think that we have certain players already that offer us those defensive characteristics. With Ramrez, he is in a more advanced role and we are covered in that position.”
It was curious to hear Villas-Boas talk about why Tottenham do not really need M’Vila or Ramirez. Why the bids, then? The likely explanation is that the chairman, Daniel Levy, was attracted by their youth, talent and potential sell-on value. They could be shrewd additions at the right price.
Villas-Boas said that the negotiations with Madrid over Modric had “picked up recently” and “were back on track”, although he lamented how the delay had “put the market on hold” for Tottenham in terms of making signings. Villas-Boas has replacements for Modric in mind and, for him, it has reached the stage where the club has to push on with their business.
“We don’t want it going right to the deadline,” he said. “We might have to play in anticipation in that sense, but if we end up with a player of Luka’s dimension and one more strengthening the team, we can find solutions. The targets are identified. It’s a question of how quickly we can close the deals.” Modric has trained away from the first-team squad since his refusal to travel to the United States on the club’s pre-season tour and Villas-Boas insisted that the sideshow has not been a distraction. “He doesn’t disrupt our environment in any way because we see him daily,” Villas-Boas said. “He speaks to his colleagues. We know the situation here. It is in the chairman’s hands. I think we will have a conclusion in the next couple of weeks.
“I have to be very careful with the player’s emotional state. Losing a player of Luka’s dimension will be dramatic if the club is not able to find the right replacement, but we are looking to strengthen immediately if the transfer goes through.”
Villas-Boas will take his squad to Newcastle United on Saturday for the opening round of Premier League fixtures with Jermain Defoe as his only established striker and without Modric and the injured Scott Parker. Another key midfielder, Sandro, reported to the training ground on Thursday for the first time under Villas-Boas, after playing at the Olympics for Brazil and in Wednesday’s friendly against Sweden, but he is “in contention”, according to the manager, for Newcastle.
Villas-Boas, who cautioned against reading too much into the result at St James’ Park due to the difficulties he has had in completing his squad, is still not in a position to finalise the signing of the Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor. The sense of flux was reinforced when Villas-Boas said that he would not announce his captain until his transfer business was closer to being concluded.
“On that one, we are deciding towards the end of the transfer market,” he said. “We have our reference this year which is Michael Dawson and we hope to keep it that way but towards the end of the window we will have a better idea of the players that stay with us and come in. Dawson will start the season as captain.”Villas-Boas is implementing a new 4-3-3 system and he has many innovative ideas. But, mindful of how his desire to change too much, too quickly at his previous club Chelsea back-fired, his mantra at Tottenham will be gradual evolution.
“There are changes which have to be done but I won’t promote that change as aggressively as I did at Chelsea,” Villas-Boas said. “When you promote so much change ... when things were going along smoothly, everybody is happy and you are able to progress it. But when you are faced with a set-back, it’s the ability to bounce back from a set-back that will keep you right on track and our set-backs last year at Chelsea happened three in a row ... I think it was three negative results in a row, which had a tremendous impact.