Tottenham Hotspur are weighing up the possibility of a move for the former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi, having finally been paid the full £16.5m they were owed from Sunderland for Darren Bent.
Rossi, 23, now established as one of the best strikers in the Spanish league at Villarreal, is on Spurs' list of possible new players after they turned down the opportunity to sign Ajax's Luis Suarez, now a target for Liverpool. Rossi's contract expires in the summer of next year and he has attracted much interest in Spain and Italy this season.
The transfer of Bent to Aston Villa has caused movement throughout the transfer market, with Sunderland now making serious inquiries about Peter Crouch at Spurs. While Tottenham's manager, Harry Redknapp, does not want to sell the England international, that still very much depends this month on what kind of offer Sunderland would be prepared to make.
At a fee of £15m-£20m, Rossi would be among Spurs' most expensive acquisitions, but he would fit their model of buying good, young players at competitive prices and has been scouted for some time. He has formed one of the best forward partnerships in Spain with the Brazil international Nilmar and has scored nine goals already this season.
Born in the US, Rossi is now one of Italy's first-choice strikers after being left out of last summer's World Cup final squad by Marcello Lippi. He was highly rated by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, who signed him as a teenager from Parma, but was permitted to leave in August 2007. There have been suggestions that Ferguson has an option to re-sign him.
The usual resistance to competing for the biggest players has relaxed a little at Spurs in the last 12 months. The chairman, Daniel Levy, made serious inquiries about the Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko before he joined Manchester City and there is a long-standing interest in Andy Carroll of Newcastle that is likely to be pursued again in the summer.
Spurs will have to make big decisions on both Crouch and Jermain Defoe in the summer – both will then have two years remaining on their contracts and it is not inconceivable that one or both might be sold.
Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, attempted to sign Crouch, who turns 30 this month, when he joined Spurs in August 2009 and is a long-term admirer of the player. While there is no desire on Crouch's part to leave Tottenham, the security of a long-term deal for any player in his thirties can be persuasive. However, as an important part of Redknapp's Champions League run he would be very difficult to replace at this late stage of the transfer window.
The Sunderland chairman, Niall Quinn, hinted at their interest in a player like Crouch when he said that Bruce's side needed a "physical presence", in response to questions about whether they would be signing Robbie Keane, who has been made available by Spurs.
Quinn said: "What we are looking for to help Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck along is probably a physical presence. Robbie works well off a big physical player, but we don't have that now. Robbie doesn't quite suit us now."
Other alternatives for Sunderland include the Monaco striker Dieumerci Mbokani and Cardiff's Jay Bothroyd. Quinn echoed Bruce's comments that the club felt Bent had been less committed in recent weeks, which prompted suspicion that he knew he was leaving for Aston Villa. Quinn said: "Two or three weeks ago maybe, I went into the training ground and there was something up with him. I looked at his demeanour and I thought, 'It's not right'. Having been in the game, you kind of know when someone's got something going on in their heads. It transpired that that's what had happened. They were setting him up to try and come and he took the bait."
Earlier yesterday, Villa issued a rebuttal to Bruce's allegations that Bent had been tapped up and had his head turned long before Tuesday's move to Villa Park went through. Villa accused Bruce of trying to "besmirch the reputation" of Villa and Bent, and denied that they had made "an inappropriate approach to the player or unfairly [compromised] the business of Sunderland football club".
Villa said in the statement: "Darren only became aware of his possible transfer AFTER [sic] Sunderland's game against Newcastle on Sunday and AFTER we had agreed with Sunderland the essence of the deal which led quickly to Darren's arrival at Villa Park on Tuesday."