Tottenham confident of securing Downing in £8m deal

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The Independent Online

Tottenham Hotspur will step up their attempt to sign Middlesbrough's left winger Stewart Downing for around £8m by the end of the transfer window, having received encouragement that the player is ready to make the move. The England international is a long-term target for Martin Jol, the Tottenham manager, who still expects to make two more signings before the end of the month.

While Tottenham's offer last summer was firmly rejected by Middlesbrough's then manager, Steve McClaren, the White Hart Lane club are increasingly confident that they have a deal in place this time that will prove attractive.

Central to Middlesbrough's thinking is that in Adam Johnson, a highly rated 19-year-old capped for England at Under-19 level, they have an ideal left-wing replacement. Negotiations are expected to continue this week with a deal being reached before the transfer deadline day next Thursday. Although losing a home-grown player like Downing, 22, could prove unpopular with Middlesbrough's fans, the club have great confidence in Johnson, who signed a new four-year deal in the summer.

The acquisition of Downing would be in keeping with Tottenham's policy of buying young English talent and would potentially give them England's two first-choice wingers with Aaron Lennon on the right flank. Such is the wealth of talent that Middlesbrough have coming through from their academy that they expect many more to break into Gareth Southgate's squad over the next two seasons, including the 16-year-old Nathan Porritt, who is one of the most highly rated teenagers in the country.

Luis Boa Morte is regarded as a possible alternative to Downing, but the Fulham captain is still very much a second choice for Spurs. The club investigated the possibility of a £14m bid for Fernando Torres, the Atletico Madrid striker, in January but were discouraged. Entering the last week of the transfer window, they appear to be one of the few clubs with deals at an advanced stage and the financial power to push them through. The sale of Michael Carrick for an initial payment of £14m, rising to a potential £18.6m, has offset the fees for Dimitar Berbatov (£10.9m) and Didier Zokora (£7m).

By picking up young English talent wherever possible - they bought Lennon from Leeds for £1m and Carrick for £2.75m - Spurs have taken advantage of a lucrative loan-payment system to cover the cost of transfers. Wayne Routledge and Tom Huddlestone were sent out on loan in return for fees that have gone a long way to covering the modest cost of buying them.

Jol is still in the market for a right-back and a striker. Berbatov scored his first goal for the club against Sheffield United on Tuesday and is considered a potential 20-goal-a-season Premiership striker. He scored 21 in 34 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga last season.

"The first goal is the most important for me and it was at home," Berbatov said. "Tottenham bought me to score goals... If I achieve what I scored in Germany last season or even more I will be happy. I think we can finish in the top four. The Uefa Cup is big for Tottenham and I don't think we should be afraid of teams who will play against us. We have to respect everybody, but if we play our style of play we have the quality to beat anybody.

"I'm a forward and all the time I have received kicks. It's normal for me, I don't complain, I like this style of football. From the first training session things have begun to work for me and I have a good understanding, not just with Robbie [Keane] but all the players."

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