Portsmouth need to use a significant part of the €20m (£18.7m) they will receive from the sale of Lassana Diarra to Real Madrid to cover the next installments due on the transfer fees of Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch, who arrived this year from Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool respectively.
The fact that Portsmouth require the cash to meet the payments for their England strikers will cause alarm among supporters – and runs contrary to the claim of manager Tony Adams that he will be able to spend all the income – but it also offers some reassurance that a fire sale will not be conducted when the transfer window opens next month.
Twenty per cent of the fee for the deal will go to Diarra's former club Arsenal in a sell-on clause after the France international moved to Fratton Park for £5.5m in January, while there will be some money left over to pursue transfer targets.
Portsmouth have approached French club Le Mans to inquire about their 26-year-old goalkeeper Yohann Pelé, who is out of contract next summer, which raises the prospect of David James being sold, to Spurs. Their manager Harry Redknapp is expected to bid for right-back Glen Johnson but the England international would only be allowed to go if a replacement was signed first.
The defender Lauren, who is set to leave Portsmouth next month, claimed in an interviewed published yesterday by the Spanish sports newspaper As, that "the team is dismantling itself and big sides are coming in". Lauren, who has been out of favour, added: "Diarra is not the only one, Defoe as well is returning to Tottenham, and Glen Johnson is leaving.
"The economic situation is very bad and we are aware of it. Look at the signings they made two years ago - they bought myself, Sol Campbell, Defoe, Pedro Mendes, who has moved to Rangers. Well, the majority of them are going to leave. I'm leaving in January as well, going to Turkey or Greece."
However, Portsmouth are adamant that owner Alexandre Gaydamak, who is under financial pressure and is looking to sell the club, will not have to break up the squad. A source said that Diarra's imminent departure had given Gaydamak, who was close to reaching a deal with a South African consortium last month and is still in contact with the potential buyers, more time.
Further payments are due for Defoe – who cost £9m – and £11m record signing Crouch, which Gaydamak may have struggled to meet had Diarra not been sold. In any case Defoe could not return to Spurs in January as he only completed his move from White Hart Lane last summer.
Nevertheless, Portsmouth, who have significant debts and a large wage bill, do face an uncertain future. Twelve players – including captain Sol Campbell, Sean Davis, Noé Pamarot and Herman Hreidarsson – are out of contract next summer, while Niko Kranjcar, who was the subject of a £13m bid last summer, could again be a target and other senior players, such as Sylvain Distin, may be unsettled by the departures.
Adams remains determined that he will receive financial backing, however. "I have all that [Diarra] money – and more," he said when asked about the funds available to him. "I had money anyway. They [the board] are going to do exactly what they did for Harry [Redknapp] to me. It's exactly the same. I've got players in mind and that's been the case since I came into the job. I think you've got to get it right. Harry was fantastic at it and hopefully I've learnt a little bit off the master."
Adams is believed to have made signing a right-sided midfielder a priority and there has been some contact with Middlesbrough about the former Portsmouth captain, Gary O'Neil, who has failed to settle on Teesside and may be sold if a fee of around £4m is agreed.