Tottenham Hotspur began what promises to be two days of intense transfer activity at the club last night when they agreed a deal to bring Fulham's unsettled French midfielder, Steed Malbranque, to White Hart Lane with Wayne Routledge moving in the opposite direction on a loan deal.
The deal for Malbranque, 26, is likely to cost Tottenham in the region of £2m, with Routledge staying at Craven Cottage for a year on loan. The former France Under-21 international has been courted by Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United over the summer after falling out with Chris Coleman over his refusal to sign a new contract.
Malbranque would have been a free agent next summer and able to leave on a Bosman free transfer but Tottenham have decided to make a move for him after their £10m pursuit of Stewart Downing was met with a flat refusal from Middlesbrough to sell. Although Malbranque favours the right wing, he can play on the left and it is there that Tottenham are likely to use him as a foil to Aaron Lennon on the opposite flank.
The deal was made possible by Routledge's availability and he is likely to get more first-team chances at Fulham than at Tottenham. The England Under-21 international joined Tottenham from Crystal Palace last summer but spent the second half of the season on loan at Portsmouth. The 21-year-old's suitability for the right wing makes him a natural short-term replacement for Malbranque.
The deal marks the end of an unusual six months for Malbranque, who is one of the Premiership's less celebrated talents or at least he was until the Prime Minister Tony Blair selected him as one of his favourite players during a guest appearance on the BBC's Football Focus last season.
Popular with the Fulham fans, Malbranque was offered "the most significant financial package in Fulham's history", according to the club, but pursued his desire to leave instead.
Tottenham have proved themselves to be canny operators in the last days of the transfer window and it is likely that Malbranque, who was not even given a squad number by Coleman for the start of the season, was growing increasingly desperate to leave. The former Lyon man, who joined Fulham for £4.5m in 2001, had originally set his sights on a Champions' League side but will have the consolation of Uefa Cup football at Tottenham.
Tottenham have also sold their Korean left-back, Lee Young-Pyo, to Roma as part of the deal that will bring the Egyptian striker Mido back to the club on a permanent deal. Spurs last night lined up a ready-made replacement for Young-Pyo, with reports that a £5m deal had been agreed with Wigan Athletic for the defender Pascal Chimbonda.
Mido, 23, arrived back in London yesterday after spending 18 months on loan at the club up until the summer when Roma asked for £5m to make the deal permanent. Tottenham are understood to have negotiated a much-reduced deal.
He said: "It was and it always will be an honour for me to play at Tottenham."Reuse content