Tottenham were last night close to completing their first major piece of transfer business of the summer with Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra expected to join the club for £10m.
Diarra, who played for the Spurs manager Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth, left Fratton Park for Real in 2008 for £20m but has largely slipped out of first-team contention since the arrival of Jose Mourinho at the Bernabeu last year.
The signing of the France international will heighten speculation that Tottenham are preparing to part company with Luka Modric, who has been the subject of two bids from Chelsea. On Wednesday, Redknapp admitted that selling the Croatian playmaker for a free approaching £30m would give him the funds to bring in four players and, in the words of the manager, leave him with "a better side".
Diarra, 26, first arrived in England in 2005 when joining Chelsea from Le Havre. He was seen as the long-term replacement for Claude Makélélé but grew frustrated at his lack of first-team chances at Stamford Bridge and moved to Arsenal two years later. However, he could not force himself into a Gunners side challenging strongly at the top of the Premier League and left for Portsmouth for £5.5m in January 2008.
That was an astute bit of business by Redknapp: Diarra anchored the Pompey midfield as the side won the FA Cup that season and, after the manager departed for Spurs, Portsmouth could not resist Real's huge offer for him.
Redknapp has faced disappointment in the transfer market this summer, hindered in part by Spurs' wage structure. However, they are making progress towards bringing Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor to White Hart Lane on loan and the signing of Diarra will also freshen up a squad that reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season but finished fifth in the Premier League.
In their first competitive fixture of the season Spurs won 5-0 at Hearts in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier on Thursday night and travel to Manchester United on Monday hopeful of recording their first win at Old Trafford in 22 years. "Winning the way we did against Hearts has given us a lot of confidence," said captain Michael Dawson.