By Greg Stobart
Tottenham have made Erik Lamela their top target to replace Gareth Bale - and may sign the Roma winger this summer even if the Welshman stays at White Hart Lane.
Real Madrid want to sign Bale and are willing to offer a world record fee worth in the region of £86 million - but Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is still holding out for £100m despite the 24-year-old’s desire to move to the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Spanish giants remain confident of pushing through a deal for Bale before the transfer window closes and Tottenham have been lining up a number of potential recruits should the PFA player of the year leave the club.
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Replacing Gareth Bale is the most unenviable of tasks but Tottenham have done well to identify Erik Lamela as a potential successor to the flying Welsh winger.
A product of the prolific River Plate academy, Lamela has since gone on to become one Serie A’s most precocious talents with Roma and should go on to become an important part of the national team’s plans. Though not quite as impressive a physical specimen as Bale, his playing style mirrors that of the man he could well end up replacing at White Hart Lane.
Fast, direct, inventive and audacious, should Spurs manage to secure the 21-year-old’s services it would certainly soften the blow of being forced to sell last season’s double Player of the Year to Real Madrid.
Sources have told Goal that Lamela is the "absolute priority" should Bale leave and was already at the very top of the wishlist of both manager Villas-Boas and technical director Franco Baldini.
Baldini knows Lamela well from his time at Roma and the 21-year-old was a major point of discussion when the Italian met Walter Sabatini, the sporting director of Roma, in London earlier this month.
Spurs had already made an enquiry for the former River Plate man at the start of the summer and are now in dialogue with Roma over a transfer before the window closes at the start of next month.
Lamela is considered a creative, versatile match-winner with sell-on value - despite the mooted £30-35m asking price - and the potential to improve into one of the best players in the world.
Before Real made their play for Bale, the Argentine was considered too expensive to sign this summer after scoring 15 goals in 33 Serie A matches last season.
But there is a chance he could play together with Bale this season given the inevitable prospect of the former Southampton man’s departure next summer, even if Spurs manage to hang on to him for one more year.
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Luis Suarez has also been considered as a potential recruit but the Uruguayan’s camp have made it clear that the Liverpool striker wants to play in the Champions League and is eyeing a move to either Arsenal or Real Madrid.
Spurs have invested heavily in the transfer market this summer as they target a top-four finish, spending more than £50m on the arrivals of Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue, whose £9m transfer from Toulouse is now a formality.
Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, has been angered by Real Madrid’s attitude and the way Bale’s camp have pushed for a transfer this summer, but the club do not expect the player to kick up a fuss if he stays in north London.
Nevertheless, with Bale pushing for the transfer and Real keen to make the 24-year-old their marquee summer signing, Spurs are preparing for the Spaniards to meet their £100m asking price, most probably with the inclusion of players in exchange such as Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Morata.