Tottenham Hotspur face an uphill task if they are to sign the Spain forward Fernando Llorente from Athletic Bilbao, with his club unwilling to accept an offer that does not trigger the €36m (£31.6m) buy-out clause in his contract.
The Spurs manager Harry Redknapp is anxious to reinforce his attacking options after seeing Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko register just 18 league goals between them for the club last season.
Llorente, who scored 19 goals in 2010-11 to help propel Athletic into a sixth-place finish and the Europa League, has been a long-time target for Spurs, whose interest was intensified once Mirko Vucinic moved from Roma to Juventus last month. Preliminary talks took place with Bilbao last weekend, although the Basque club said they would be reluctant sellers of their most prized asset. Presidential elections were held over the summer with Fernando Garcia Macua duly replaced by Josu Urrutia and the new incumbent understandably keen not to start his tenure at the club by selling Llorente, such an iconic player, who is contracted to the club until 2013.
That may force Spurs to make a move for Villarreal's Giuseppe Rossi, with Redknapp keen to bring in a forward before allowing any of his current options to depart. Keane has yet to attract interest, but Stoke City have made a formal offer for Crouch and team-mate Wilson Palacios, though major obstacles still need to be hurdled before either deal could be completed.
A fee of around £8m has been agreed for Palacios, 27, though the midfielder's wage demands may yet prove to be out of Stoke's reach. The club have yet to hold talks with Crouch, 30, with the salary potentially on offer over what would have to be a four-year contract likely to prove a similar stumbling block.
The Stoke chairman, Peter Coates, said he was awaiting a response from Spurs over what amounts to a £20m offer for both players. "We've made our last bid," said Coates. "The ball is in their court. We shall not be negotiating from where we are. The last conversation I had with Spurs, we had not agreed anything. We'll see what happens, but we haven't got any further."Tottenham, who have held talks with Real Madrid over the possible signing of Lassana Diarra, could yet raise further money by selling their former England midfielder Jermaine Jenas to Fulham, where he would be reunited with the former Spurs manager Martin Jol.
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