By Michael Yokhin
Gareth Bale, Gareth Bale and, for good measure, yet more Gareth Bale. Tottenham fans will be getting sick to death of the headlines surrounding their wing wizard and his likely exit to Real Madrid, but, there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
While Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has reluctantly agreed to sanction the sale of Bale for a world record fee of €100 million, the arrivals of Roberto Soldado and Paulinho will cushion the blow, while the club's latest signing, Vlad Chiriches, is another valuable addition.
|A SOUND INVESTMENT FOR SPURS?
|Greg Stobart | Goal UK Correspondent
On the face of it, Tottenham are well set for central defenders with Younes Kaboul, Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson in their squad.
However, Kaboul made just one appearance last season due to a long-term knee problem while Vertonghen is only just returning to first-team duties having sustained an ankle injury during pre-season.
As a result there is always room for a young defender with the potential to improve to bulk up the squad and give Villas-Boas further options in that area.
Chiriches, in many ways a clone of Belgian stalwart Vertonghen, would be the perfect solution.
With supreme positional sense and a natural ability to read the game, Chiriches is also one of the most elegant defenders around, blessed with excellent technical skills, he is a player that's always willing to play the ball forward and join the attack - just as Vertonghen learned to do during his days at Ajax.
In his homeland, the 23-year-old is rated extremely highly. Just a couple of years ago he was compared to Cristian Chivu, although nowadays Romanian journalists go as far as mentioning him in the same breath as the legendary Miodrag Belodedici, the brilliant centre-back of Steaua Bucharest who won the Champions Cup in 1986, and achieved the same feat with Red Star Belgrade five years later.
Belodedici himself said of his so-called heir in December last year: "Chiriches is strong, fast and intelligent. He can definitely go very far. There are few footballers who can do what he does in his position, and he is ready to take risks going forward. In my era, coaches wouldn't let me touch the ball so many times."
Chiriches' ball skills undoubtedly improved when he moved to Benfica at just 17 years old, training alongside players like Rui Costa. An injury interrupted his progress in Portugal, however, and the youngster returned to Romania in 2008, moving to International.
When the club was demoted due to financial troubles in 2010, Chiriches switched to Pandurii Targu Jiu, and in January 2012, having made his debut for the national team, signed for Steaua. That's where his career really took off.
Last summer, there was reported interest from Barcelona and Milan, and Steaua's controversial owner Gigi Becali commented that he had no doubt that the player would easily walk into any team in the world.
Then came Romania's disastrous 4-3 defeat to Slovenia in a friendly in August, and those words came back to haunt Chiriches.
"He will never make it to Barcelona if he continues to make mistakes like that," fumed former national coach Anghel Iordanescu, while Gheorghe Hagi claimed: "He commits errors in the area where you just can’t do that."
Such criticism could have been a blow to a young player, but Chiriches proved to be mentally strong and went on to produce his best season to date. Not only did he help Steaua win their first championship title since 2006 in his first season with the club, the cultured centre-back also performed brilliantly in the Europa League.
Never limiting himself to just sitting back and playing it simple in defence, he scored an amazing overhead-kick against Molde in the group stages, and struck a brilliant and crucial volley against Ajax as well.
His home performance in a 1-0 win over Chelsea in the last 16 was nothing short of phenomenal. Naturally, the offers continued to pour in. Russian clubs queued up to get their hands on Chiriches, with Zenit, Spartak Moscow and Rubin Kazan all making big offers.
The reported £8 million fee Tottenham paid for Chiriches represents a bargain, given the level he can reach.
If Spurs fans are getting sleepless nights over Bale's imminent exit, they should rest easier in the knowledge that one of Europe's most promising centre-backs has arrived at White Hart Lane.
Follow Michael Yokhin on