Blackburn Rovers last night offered Paul Robinson a lifeline after a tumultuous 12 months at Tottenham Hotspur, during which he has lost his place for club and country, by making a bid of around £3m for the England goalkeeper. The move came after Blackburn accepted an offer of £2m from Aston Villa, who want to buy their goalkeeper Brad Friedel and have beaten off competition from Manchester City.
The deal is also likely to facilitate David Bentley's move to Spurs, with negotiations under way as to how the package can be agreed to the satisfaction of all parties, particularly as Arsenal are believed to have a sell-on clause for their former player. Tottenham had an initial bid, thought to be around £9m, rejected for the winger last week and are aware that Blackburn want around double that figure for the 23-year-old England international who, significantly, has withdrawn from the rest of their pre-season preparations, which have taken the squad from Germany to Portugal.
Bentley is said to be injured, with a damaged hamstring, but has made no secret of the fact that, like Friedel, he wants to leave Ewood Park and would accept a move to White Hart Lane as part of the head coach Juande Ramos' sweeping rebuilding of the Spurs squad. Matters may be helped by the fact that Bentley and Robinson share the same agent, Robert Segal, although last night he was overseas on business.
In a statement Blackburn announced that they had agreed to sell 37-year-old Friedel after Villa increased their initial bid for the American, who has been offered a three-year contract. However, Rovers added the qualification that the deal was contingent on their offer for his replacement being accepted. Even though Robinson, who also interested Villa, has been replaced at Spurs by the new Brazilian signing Heurelho Gomes, the north London club would still want a sizeable fee for the 28-year-old, with Blackburn initially indicating that they did not want to be involved in a part-exchange arrangement.
In a busy day for Spurs, the full-back Pascal Chimbonda and midfielder Teemu Tainio agreed to join Sunderland. Both players travelled to the North-east to have medicals before signing after talks at the weekend with manager Roy Keane, who impressed upon them the club's ambitions. They are now expected to be joined by the centre-half Younes Kaboul, who has made an astonishing about-turn after his agent criticised Sunderland last week, saying his client would not sign "even if there was an earthquake", while the player himself indicated he would prefer to join Portsmouth.
A fourth member of the Spurs squad, Steed Malbranque, is set to turn down the Black Cats, although it was unclear last night what portion of the £23m package agreed last week for all four players the midfielder made up. Of the quartet, Kaboul, who has endured a miserable time under Ramos, would be valued the highest at around £7m, which is what Spurs paid Auxerre for the 22-year-old last summer.
Robinson has had an equally uncomfortable experience under Ramos and fell out with the Spurs hierarchy over the dismissal of the coach's predecessor, Martin Jol. It is understood that he is keen to join Blackburn for the guarantee of first-team football as he attempts to rehabilitate his career, which collapsed dramatically last season.
The keeper was accused by Ramos of being overweight and despite losing 10 kilos during the campaign failed to regain his first-team place, while he has been overtaken in the England set-up by both David James and Joe Hart and is struggling to make the national squad.
If Bentley signs for Spurs it will be a another major step in Ramos' restructuring, which will continue with a renewed bid for the Seville winger Diego Capel and interest in the Russian forwards Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrei Arshavin, although the former is of more interest because he can operate as a lone target man in the formation favoured by the Spanish coach.
Tottenham fully expect to sell Robbie Keane to Liverpool and Dimitar Berbatov to Manchester United once fees – or "compensation" as the aggrieved club now refer to the payment – for the two strikers can be agreed, while Darren Bent's future is also still in some doubt. Sunderland and Everton would like to sign the striker.
All change: Tottenham's transformation
Giovani Dos Santos, Barcelona, £4.7m; Luka Modric, Dynamo Zagreb, £16.6m; Heurelho Gomes, PSV, undisclosed.
Likely to land:
David Bentley, Blackburn Rovers, £18m.
On the horizon?
Roman Pavlyuchenko, Spartak Moscow, £10m; Andrei Arshavin, Zenit St Petersburg, £20m; Diego Capel, Seville, £10m.
Radek Cerny, QPR, free; Teemu Tainio and Pascal Chimbonda, both Sunderland, undisclosed.
Ready to take off:
Paul Robinson, Blackburn £3m; Dimitar Berbatov, Man Utd £25m; Robbie Keane, Liverpool £20m; Younes Kaboul, Sunderland £7m; Darren Bent, Sunderland/Everton.
Still to check out?
Steed Malbranque, Sunderland; Ricardo Rocha, Hull City; Anthony Gardner, Everton/Aston Villa; Hossam Ghaly, El Ahly; Lee Young-Pyo, PSV/Roma; Kevin-Prince Boateng.