Spurs set for pitch battle over Gareth Bale as stars brave Hong Kong quagmire


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The Independent Football

Real Madrid have increased their spending power ahead of an expected move for Totteham's Gareth Bale by selling Gonzalo Higuain to Napoli for around £35 million.

The striker, 25, previously a transfer target for Arsenal, has signed a five-year contract with the Serie A club, who are coached by the former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez.

Higuain's move will heighten speculation that Madrid will use the money to help finance an £80m offer for Bale, who the Spanish club are so keen to sign they have left their No 11 shirt free for him to inherit.

The Welsh winger, 24, missed Tottenham's 6-0 pre-season friendly win against South China in Hong Kong yesterday through injury and afterwards Andre Villas-Boas, the Spurs manager, refused to discuss reports in Spain which suggested the player wants to join Madrid.

"He is going to be fit to join the team for training on Wednesday," Villas-Boas said. "I won't comment on anything [else about Bale]. I can't speak about speculation."

It has also been suggested in Spain that Madrid's president, Florentino Perez, plans to hold talks with Daniel Levy, Tottenham's chairman, during his club's pre-season trip to the United States which starts this weeks. Levy has a base in Florida.

Marca, the Madrid-based sports newspaper, last week claimed Bale has already agreed a six-year contract and he has told Tottenham that he wants to play for the nine-time European champions.

Jermain Defoe scored a hat-trick in Spurs' win in the Barclays Asia Cup after further heavy rain turned the already criticised pitch at the Hong Kong stadium into even more of a quagmire. In the game which followed, Manchester City defender Matija Nastasic was stretchered off in his side's 1-0 win over Sunderland. Edin Dzeko scored the only goal.