Bent future in doubt after Burnley pull-out

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The Independent Online

Darren Bent's future at Tottenham was thrown into doubt last night after the striker pulled out of his club's Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Burnley. The player told manager Harry Redknapp's assistants that he was injured and did not get the team's flight to the North-west, prompting suggestions at the club that he is disillusioned.

Aston Villa have been interested in the England international, who signed for Spurs for £16.5m in 2007, although no formal approach has been made. He also came in for heavy criticism from Redknapp after missing a simple back-post header to win the Premier League match against Portsmouth on Sunday. Since then, Redknapp has said that he stands by his comment that his wife would have scored the chance and that people should not be so "precious" about criticism.

Carlo Cudicini is Redknapp's first-choice target as a reserve to Heurelho Gomes but suggestions that Tottenham have agreed a £1m fee with Chelsea are inaccurate. The Spurs manager will make enquiries about the player's availability this week.

The key question facing Cudicini, 35, is whether he wants to swap life as the perennial No2 to Petr Cech for the prospect of sitting on the bench at Spurs. Redknapp cannot make any promises to the Italian that he will be the first-choice goalkeeper at White Hart Lane despite Gomes' erratic form. Nevertheless, it would be a chance for Cudicini to get a contract extension.

Currently Cudicini has a deal that lasts until the end of the season. A number of Chelsea players, including the Italian goalkeeper, Joe Cole and Michael Ballack are having their existing deals run down as the club prepares to rein in spending in a bid to be self-sufficient by 2010. Cudicini would naturally want a deal that at least took him to the end of next season.

Redknapp is also interested in the Newcastle reserve goalkeeper Steve Harper, another long-serving No 2 who is out of contract in the summer. Harper, 33, is also a tricky deal to pull off and having already spent more than £30m this transfer window, chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to spend on squad players. Back-up goalkeeper Ben Alnwick made his Spurs debut last night and Cesar Sanchez has been allowed to join Valencia until the end of the season.

Speaking before last night's game, Redknapp said that the completion of the £14m signing of Wilson Palacios from Wigan would give his side a more aggressive dimension in midfield. "He will come in here and get after it and play aggressively. He will work and close and run. I feel that we need a bit of that around the place.

"Palacios has the ability to go on to become a top, top player. I just like the way he plays. He is an all-round modern midfielder – he gets after it, he is box-to-box. I speak to people who have played against him, like Frank Lampard, and no-one has had an easy game against him."

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