Could Zenit St Petersburg's Hulk be joining Tottenham Hotspur this summer?
As is the case almost every year by early May, the transfer rumor mill is on the verge of going into overdrive. At least in terms of the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur looks set to be one of the most discussed clubs here in the coming months.
So much of Tottenham's potential summer business is hinging on their finish to the season. With this in mind, the continued, varied reporting of their prospective plans in different media outlets continues to intrigue.
Of the past week's rumors, Bleacher Report examines four of the most intriguing.
Zenit St. Petersburg's Hulk.
Andre Villas-Boas has been sporadically linked with his former Porto players, almost since he first left the Portuguese giants in 2011. Back then, heading for Chelsea, Falcao was said to be on the young manager's wish list (as reported by the Daily Mail).
Fredy Guarin, now at Internazionale, was linked with Tottenham last month before the player's agent dismissed any speculation (via SkySports.com).
This past week, the London Evening Standard's Simon Johnson wrote that Villas-Boas was now in for Hulk—potentially as a replacement for Gareth Bale if the Welshman is sold.
The Tottenham boss stated any deal for Hulk would be impossible because of the fee he would cost and "because of the wages that he earns, which would break our balance".
It was an interesting admission from Villas-Boas.
Spurs have maintained a frugal wage structure in comparison with rivals at the top of the Premier League. Neither have they gone overboard on spending on transfer fees.
Yet, even if Spurs do qualify for next season's Champions League (and its extra cash), is this the first acknowledgement the club will not be willing to spend above their self-imposed limits?
Investment is undoubtedly needed to improve the club's squad—though few around Tottenham have been advocating wholesale changes. Spurs have shown they are willing to spend to acquire certain targets (in past years, Mousa Dembele and Luka Modric have each cost somewhere between £15-20 million).
If not Hulk, who will be those players?
In the aftermath of Real Madrid's Champions League exit, a club-wide reappraisal preparing for their next move seems to have definitively signified that Gonzalo Higuain is heading for the exit door.
Director general Jose Angel Sanchez was quoted in the same story as saying Real want "two number nines of a high level."
"We have Benzema and Higuain, Higuain will leave, Benzema will stay and two others will come."
Given Real's desire to sell the striker, Spurs might fancy their chances of making a successful cut-price bid. Though a price as low as the bargain £8 million that Rafael van der Vaart cost from the Bernabeu club might be wishful thinking.
Like with Hulk, the main issue might be the size of Higuain's wages.
Even if the prolific striker—who has scored more than 15 goals in four of his last five seasons—is tempting enough for the North Londoners to make him one of their highest earners, it will likely require some in-squad manoeuvring to accommodate this.
Spurs' need for a striker has been much-discussed though. Higuain would likely be as high quality a forward as they could hope to sign.
If the Express story is to be believed, Spurs might not be the only Premier League club after the 25-year-old's services.
Could Leighton Baines be back at White Hart Lane next season?
A bit of a cheat, as this story came from last weekend. But the rumor, carried on the Daily Mirror website, linking Leighton Baines with Tottenham became all the more interesting following an interview with their current left-back.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto told The Guardian's David Hytner that he "would be quite happy to see out my playing career" at White Hart Lane, though he admitted "that it's not my call to make."
Assou-Ekotto has not enjoyed the best of seasons. Though injury was a contributor to this, his form since returning to fitness has not matched the heights of previous campaigns.
It has led to an assumption that Assou-Ekotto might be one of the players discarded by Villas-Boas this summer. A feeling enforced by stories such as the one the Daily Mail carried last month and Danny Rose's good form in his loan spell at Sunderland.
The Baines link was one of the latest interesting transfer tidbits in regards to the position at Spurs. Now that Assou-Ekotto has spoken of his desire to stay at Spurs, what will this mean for Rose and others?
Outside of rumors relating to their striker plans, left-back is arguably the most interesting position about which Villas-Boas' intentions will be cemented in the coming months.
The Gareth Bale transfer rumors are getting a little tiring, particularly for Tottenham supporters, but for others too.
Without spending too much time on it, it was with great interest that Villas-Boas' quotes about the Welshman's future were reported earlier this week.
"I would be extremely surprised [if Bale left] because this is the assurance I have," Villas-Boas said (via The Guardian). He added:
In football anything can happen, it's impossible to predict, but this is the assurance I have had from the club. The information that I have from the club is that the player is here to remain independent of the objectives of Champions League qualification being achieved or not.
Was this a genuine statement of Spurs' intentions, perhaps one based on information indirectly garnered from Bale himself? Or just a manager's posturing, with Villas-Boas understandably keen not to talk further about his star player's future?