The Sweeper: Tottenham missed Aston Villa's Benteke deadline

Spurs' failure to match the Villans' £25 million valuation saw the Belgian instead opt to sign a new contract, while Costel Pantilimon wants to fight for his Manchester City place

Aston Villa are rightly being applauded for the firm stance they took with their star striker Christian Benteke, but The Sweeper understands it could have been very different had Tottenham met the £25 million asking price before Thursday’s deadline imposed by the Midlands club.

The 22-year-old was eager to move to Spurs but performed a dramatic U-turn and withdrew the transfer request he handed in earlier this month, before putting pen to paper on Friday following a two-and-a-half hour meeting with Villa boss Paul Lambert.

Thursday also marked the deadline for Benteke to sign a double-your-money four-year contract at Villa that will see his salary rise to more than £40,000-a-week.

Tottenham had hoped to land the former Genk man in order to bolster their strikeforce but Villa refused to lower their £25m valuation of the Belgian, who scored 19 Premier League goals last season.

Spurs were only willing to offer a deal worth around £20m for Benteke, including add-ons, and spent several days locked in talks with the Midlands club.

But once it became clear that Villa were unwilling to compromise, the Londoners pulled out of the running, effectively forcing the striker to commit his immediate future to the club.

Spurs, who were also beaten to the punch by Atletico Madrid in the race to sign David Villa, will now focus their attentions elsewhere in their attempt to add depth and quality to a forward line which still compromises only of Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor.

- Greg Stobart


Manchester City reserve goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon looked certain to be heading for the Etihad Stadium exit door this summer after he was axed for last season’s FA Cup final, but The Sweeper understands the giant Romania international is now intent on seeing out the final year of his contract.

Pantilimon played every minute during City’s run to the Wembley final last year and was assured he would start against Wigan, before then manager Roberto Mancini opted to reinstate Joe Hart for a game City lost 1-0 and which ultimately sealed the Italian's fate.

The 26-year-old, a popular figure in the City dressing room, was keen to leave this summer in search of first team football with a number of Italian clubs understood to have shown an interest.

But the shot-stopper has now had a change of heart and, after Hart’s indifferent form last season carried into Thursday’s pre-season friendly against AmaZulu, Pantilimon may well enjoy more first team opportunities under Manuel Pellegrini than he did while Mancini was in charge.

- Paul Clennam


Newcastle United were the most high profile victims of the Premier League's youth development shake-up 12 months ago when they missed out on the elite Category One status.

But independent auditors returned in May to inspect the Magpies' academy and The Sweeper has learned that the Professional Game Board has acted upon their recommendation to upgrade the club's classification from Category Two to Category One.

This will have funding and recruitment benefits for Newcastle, enhancing their capacity to produce first-team players to follow in the footsteps of star graduates like Andy Carroll and Steven Taylor.

Newcastle will now feature in next season's re-formatted Under-21 league, which will consist of all 22 Category One clubs. They will be joined by fellow newly classified Category One clubs Blackburn Rovers, Leicester City and Reading.

- Wayne Veysey