Tottenham are again in talks to land the Internacional striker but could face competition from Napoli and Marseille, with the player almost certain to move this summerBy Greg Stobart
The long-distance love affair between Tottenham and Leandro Damiao has dragged on for so long that it evokes exasperation more than any other emotion among senior figures at the London club.
Spurs first made contact with Internacional over a deal for Damiao two-and-a-half years ago, but they have been continually frustrated in their efforts to bring the Brazilian striker to White Hart Lane.
This summer, though, it finally seems that Damiao will get his long-awaited move to Europe, with Tottenham facing competition from Marseille and Napoli for his signature.
|DAMIAO'S CAREER STATS
Last summer, Internacional moved the goalposts and the last minute and Spurs chairman Daniel Levy considered their fresh demands exorbitant, while they ran out of time on the final day of the January transfer window due to the complex nature of the deal.
Damiao is rated at around £15 million and Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas is a huge fan of the Brazil international, having extensively scouted players in Brazil after he was sacked by Chelsea in 2012.
Tottenham have a partnership agreement with Internacional, announced when they signed Sandro for £8m in 2010, but that has done little to smooth over negotiations with Giovanni Luigi, the president of the Porto Alegre-based club.
Spurs have even tried to use Base Soccer, an agency with offices in Porto Alegre, to broker a deal but have consistently hit a brick wall.
Now, though, the Brazilian club are ready to sell their star man and Spurs have again re-opened talks, with incoming technical director Franco Baldini also an admirer of Damiao’s goalscoring ability.
The message from Brazil is that both the player and the club feel the time is right for him to move on, although as with many South American players the deal is complicated by potential third party ownership issues.
Damiao scored 24 goals last season on the back of finishing the 2012 Olympics as the tournament’s top scorer - and he is targeting a starting place for Brazil in their home World Cup next year.
While he has spoken of his desire to compete in the Champions League, his agent Vinicius Prates very much left the door open for a move to north London earlier this month.
| TRANSFER TALK
|6/4||Leandro Damiao is 6/4 with BetVictor to join Tottenham this summer
"If he leaves, it will be to a big club, he is under contract until 2016 and the club gives him every condition for him to achieve that dream.
"Our idea is to always work with big clubs, all players dream of playing in the Champions League. But Tottenham are an important club in London, we can't rule them out."
The worry for Spurs is that they could yet find themselves gazumped, with Marseille monitoring developments and Napoli eyeing potential replacements for Edinson Cavani should the Uruguayan complete a move to the Premier League or La Liga this summer.
Internacional have proven in the past that they would be more than happy to provoke a bidding war and hold out for the highest offer, so Spurs will hope to finalise the signing of Damiao as soon as possible after the Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Villas-Boas’ plan is to combine Damiao with a more experienced striker - like David Villa or Roberto Solado - while Spurs are willing to listen to offers for both Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe as they look to shake up their forward line.
Damiao started his professional career late but has the technical ability, eye for goal and the physical presence to play in the Premier League, where most teams now favour a lone striker.
Another factor in Tottenham's favour is Damiao's close relationship with former team-mate Sandro, who has been urging him to join the club, and the fact Villas-Boas speaks Portuguese.
Yet Spurs fans will believe it when they see it. They have waited a long time to see Damiao in north London - but this is likely to become the transfer window when they finally land their man.