'Frantic' Andre Villas-Boas draws close to signing Willian for Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur start their Europa League campaign tonight in Georgia with a play-off at Dynamo Tblisi but it will not distract them from their relentless summer recruitment.
Their manager, Andre Villas-Boas, promised that the countdown to the closure of the transfer window on 2 September would be a "very frantic" time.
Spurs are closing in on the signing of Willian, Anzhi Makhachkala's Brazilian forward, for a fee of around £30m. Willian, a long-time target of Andre Villas-Boas, joined Anzhi from Shakhtar Donetsk in January but Villas-Boas confirmed that he was close to a move to White Hart Lane, despite interest from Liverpool.
"There is interest in the player and there have been conversations," Villas-Boas said from Georgia, while Willian was in London, undergoing a medical.
If Willian does join, it would be the third time this summer that Spurs have broken their transfer record following the arrivals of Paulinho and Roberto Soldado from Corinthians and Valencia respectively.
But with Tottenham likely to receive a world record fee in excess of £90m if Gareth Bale is finally sold to Real Madrid, the recruitment at White Hart Lane is not over yet. Spurs refused to comment on reports in the Italian and Spanish media that technical director Franco Baldini was in Madrid for discussions with Real over the transfer of Bale.
"We will see some new players in defence and attack," said Villas-Boas, although he would not confirm the arrivals of Roma's young Argentinian winger Erik Lamela or Real Madrid's Portuguese left-back Fabio Coentrao, who might yet be included in a part-exchange deal for Bale. "They have not signed for Spurs," Villas-Boas said, "both of them are great, great players, but I cannot extend myself."
Villas-Boas was asked if the spending spree was designed in part to try to tempt Bale to stay. "Ideally, we want to keep everyone to make us stronger," he said evasively. "That is the ultimate objective of the club."
"In the end, anything can happen. We are dragging ourselves into the last weeks of transfer activity and it can become very, very frantic."
Villas-Boas values this competition highly – he won it when he was in charge of Porto in 2011 – and Tottenham traditionally play strong teams, as they will attempt to do in the first leg in Tblisi.
Aaron Lennon and Jan Vertonghen are both out injured, however, while Sandro – who played for the Under-21s on Monday as he continues his recovery from injury – will not feature either. Bale has not travelled to Georgia.