André Villas-Boas has identified Christian Benteke as a summer transfer target but his immediate focus will be on how to stop the Belgium striker when he takes his Tottenham Hotspur team to Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
Tottenham have sent scouts in recent weeks to watch Benteke, who moved from Genk to Villa Park in August for £7m and has found his feet in English football to score eight goals in all competitions.
Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said last month that he had tracked Benteke and he was "surprised" that the player had signed for Villa, and the Midlands club will face interest for his signature in the summer. The 22-year-old will not leave in January as Fifa rules forbid him from playing for three teams in a season; he appeared for Genk at the beginning of the season before he joined Villa on transfer deadline day.
Benteke has heard praise from White Hart Lane, ahead of the meeting between the clubs, with Villas-Boas agreeing that he had been outstanding. "Eight goals so far … I think he is surprising everybody," Tottenham's manager said. "To his credit, he has come up strong. He has strong competition from [Darren] Bent. I think Paul Lambert [the Villa manager] was courageous in his decision to persist with a player that he got so well in the transfer market so credit to them. But it is good to see him up there."
Jan Vertonghen, the Tottenham defender, who is an international teammate of Benteke's, said: "It doesn't surprise me that he has done well. He now feels the confidence of the team, the crowd and manager, and the last two or three games for the national team he was very, very good. He is very good in the air and he can score.
"He will be a very tough player to play against. Aston Villa made the right choice to sign him."
Villas-Boas faces a nervous wait before he learns whether Emmanuel Adebayor will play for Togo at the Africa Cup of Nations, which begins next month. Adebayor released a statement this month to say he had put his international career on hold because of a dispute with the Togolese federation over match bonuses. But Villas-Boas suggested that the position could still change as there was a "stand-by situation at the moment".
"We are not sure which way it is going to be solved but, at the moment, it is not going to be resolved," Villas-Boas said. "His statement was quite simple to understand. From that, he won't be going. That's the information I have. So unless there is an agreement between him and the federation, then he won't be going. That is a big boost for us at the moment. It is excellent."
Villas-Boas expects to be without the injured Clint Dempsey at Villa Park but he hopes that the United States attacking midfielder will be back for Saturday's visit to Sunderland.
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