Spurs opt for youth in pursuit of Gunter

In a clear sign that they intend to continue with their controversial policy of only buying up promising young talent, Tottenham Hotspur hope to sign Cardiff City's 18-year-old defender Chris Gunter in the January transfer window.

Gunter, who is already a full Welsh international, is an exciting prospect and the Championship club have already rejected two bids from Everton, made last summer. Spurs are likely to face competition from Fulham for Gunter's signature although Cardiff will try to drive a hard bargain.

Fulham are also one of three Premier League clubs monitoring another Welsh prospect, the Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

Cardiff will not prevent Gunter, who plays mainly as a right-back, from leaving. Spurs will propose structuring a deal similar to the one that took another promising Welsh defender, Gareth Bale, also 18, from Southampton with cash up front and the rest dependent upon his progress and appearances. No price has yet been discussed although Gunter will cost at least 3m, with Cardiff hoping to realise far more.

The January transfer window is set to be a critical time for Spurs, their new head coach, Juande Ramos, and their sporting director, Damien Comolli, in particular. A number of Comolli's signings have failed to impress with Younes Kaboul, the French under-21 international defender who cost 8.2m from Auxerre, hauled off at half-time during the weekend defeat at home to Birmingham City.

Before that match Ramos had stated that only "desperate clubs" buy in the January window but, with Spurs only a point above the relegation places, it seems they now fall into that category. With Ledley King only just returning from long-term injury the need is for a dominant central defender to play alongside Michael Dawson.

Spurs scouts have been attending Espanyol's recent matches, which has led to the belief that they are tracking the 24-year-old central defender Daniel Jarque. It is also possible, however, that Spurs are considering a move for another Espanyol player, the former Manchester City left-winger Albert Riera who has been in impressive form since his return to Spain. Spurs will also be aware that the experienced Portuguese defender Fernando Meira is keen to leave Hamburg and would like to move to the Premier League.

The absence of an experienced defender, and the obsession with only buying young players, was a source of bitter regret for Ramos' predecessor Martin Jol especially as his attempts to sign Sylvain Distin, who subsequently moved to Portsmouth, were vetoed on the grounds that the Frenchman is 29 years old.

In a foreword to a new book about his time at Spurs, Jol questioned the policy that has been enthusiastically followed by Comolli. "Youngsters cannot do it on their own, they need help," Jol wrote.

King, who had knee surgery during the summer, played his first game for six months on Tuesday, completing the first half in a reserve team game against Fulham as did Ricardo Rocha who has also been out injured.

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