Spurs put pressure on Ferguson to pay up

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The Independent Football

The Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, is confident that he has all the evidence necessary should Sir Alex Ferguson continue with his threat to sue over Spurs' remarkably robust condemnation of the Manchester United manager's conduct in the Dimitar Berbatov transfer saga. Tottenham have what they consider overwhelming evidence that Berbatov has spoken to Ferguson without their permission.

Nevertheless, the chances of a court case, or a Premier League inquiry into allegations of United breaking the League's rules with an illegal approach to Berbatov, are highly unlikely. Despite what they have said, Spurs are resigned to losing the striker and want to lever United into paying a £30m fee with up to £2m in add-ons that they regard as fair for him. However, it is the deal taking Robbie Keane to Liverpool, also criticised by Levy, that is likely to be concluded this week.

The relationship between Liverpool and Spurs is much less strained, chiefly because Liverpool are prepared to pay upwards of £15m for a 28-year-old player that many would value at no more than £10m. However, it is the money for Berbatov that will really allow Spurs to go about rebuilding their attack in time for next season.

So far United have offered around £22m, with the caveat that they are not convinced Berbatov is worth any more. Tottenham know that the 27-year-old is first among United's targets but are increasingly concerned that the deal will go through so near to the close of the transfer window at the end of August that they will have no time to marshal their resources in order to find a replacement. They feel that United will eventually pay the asking price, but would prefer it if they did so in reasonably good time, as they did with Michael Carrick two years ago. His £18.6m deal went through before the end of July.

That was the main motivation behind Levy describing Ferguson as guilty of "sheer arrogance" and being "unbelievably hypocritical" over his condemnation of Real Madrid's conduct over Cristiano Ronaldo. Ferguson responded by denying remarks about Berbatov attributed to him in The Sun on Friday. Spurs, however, believe that their evidence of contact between Berbatov and Ferguson goes far beyond those reported words, which were alleged to have been said at a fans' meeting.

Tottenham are confident of their position and the strong wording of the statement was not undertaken lightly. While being mindful that no one is completely innocent in football when it comes to the age-old practice of "tapping up" – approaching a player without his club's permission – Spurs regard their public condemnation as the only way to resolve the matter. Thus far, they have been priced out of the market on the strikers they have inquired about, although they do expect to sign David Bentley from Blackburn this week for a fee of around £15m.

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