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.
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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.
As revealed by Goal, Villas-Boas wants to sign four more players with the cash from Bale’s potential departure - a centre-back, left-back, winger and striker.
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 Andre 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 matchwinner with sell-on value - despite the mooted €35-40m 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.
Other possible replacements for Bale include Russia-based Brazilians Hulk and Willian, with the €35-rated Anzhi attacker a long-term target and set for a summer transfer due to the club's financial problems.
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 €58m on the arrivals of Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue, whose €10m 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 €116m asking price, most probably with the inclusion of players in exchange such as Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Morata.