Leandro Damiao: The Evolution of Tottenham's Long-Running Transfer Rumor
With the Premier League season nearly over, Tottenham Hotspur will soon be making their first forays into the transfer market ahead of 2013-14. Will this be the window in which they finally sign Leandro Damiao?
Over the next few slides, the long-running saga linking the Brazilian striker with a move to White Hart Lane is recounted, from its inception to the most recent speculation.
Get ready for a lot of "he said, she said" (mostly he) over the following few pages.
We begin our story with a deal of another kind...
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Tottenham's Partnership with Internacional
A major reason why Tottenham are even in the hunt for Leandro Damiao's signature is their existing relationship with his club, Internacional.
The two clubs' first major dealing occurred in March 2010 when a deal for Sandro was agreed upon. The midfielder would not arrive until August, sticking around first to play his part in Internacional's victorious Copa Libertadores campaign.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy's dealings with the Porto Alegre club were not complete. Just prior to Sandro's arrival in England, it was announced that a strategic partnership had been agreed "for the purposes of working together to develop players for both the Club and other European Leagues."
Levy explained further in the statement on Tottenham's official website:
"As we look to take the Club forward it will be increasingly important that we are able to track and develop emerging talented players. This co-operation between our two clubs, which will see an exchange of coaching methodologies as well as exchange visits, means that we shall be able to effect the placement and development of players from Brazil and South America with both ourselves or other European Leagues. It is an exciting partnership and opportunity for us and we look forward to working with Inter."
Just how extensive a partnership this has developed into is not immediately apparent. As one of the most highly rated players on Internacional's books, it is not surprising Damiao is a player Spurs have seemingly been keen to find a "placement" for in their own squad.
First Inklings in 2011
Going back through countless stories since Tottenham and Internacional's partnership began, it is not clear when Damiao's name was first mentioned in regards to a move to North London.
May 2011 was when rumors about a transfer became more than just a passing reference in football gossip columns. After a mere paragraph on it a week earlier, the Daily Mail stepped up its reporting on Damiao to Spurs by suggesting that they had got a march on Arsenal and Manchester United in any potential deal.
Spurs had just concluded a memorable, but ultimately disappointing 2010-11 campaign. After a terrific run in the Champions League, their hopes of returning to the competition were ended after a poor run of fixtures in spring saw them finish fifth.
One of the major contributors to this had been the poor form of Spurs' strikers. Jermain Defoe, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Peter Crouch occasionally sparkled, but goals had mostly run dry. Harry Redknapp had struggled to find an attacking combination that got the best out of his forwards and his advanced midfield man, Rafael van der Vaart.
Redknapp seeking a solution to this was not surprising.
Other than for aficionados of South American football, the Internacional striker was largely unknown on British shores. Tottenham fans would soon become familiar with Damiao's name over the coming months.
The Daily Mail followed up their initial stories with another in June. A mooted £12 million bid was later reported as being turned down by Internacional, with a £16 million offer supposedly on the table in the closing days of the transfer window.
Redknapp would instead sign Emmanuel Adebayor on loan. The Damiao saga was only just beginning, and Metro suggested Spurs would be back in for him the following January.
Spurs' Interest Survives a Change in Manager
It is not always easy to gauge how much truth there is in transfer speculation. The frequent reappearance of the Damiao-to-Spurs rumors gave us an idea there might be some foundation behind this story, though.
The 2012 January transfer window saw the two parties again linked with one another. The Telegraph proposed that the Spurs were back in for the Brazilian international after the failed bids the previous summer. This article was one of the first to make serious reference to the Tottenham/Internacional partnership.
One of the first reports to carry quotes from a Damiao representative about his future was Italian website CalcioMercatoWeb (via Metro) in April. Vinicius Prates revealed that Tottenham, along with Paris Saint-Germain, had made an offer for his client.
Prates was less specific about when said offer took place. That same month, Damiao himself was was said to have told Gazetta dello Sport (via the Daily Mail) that there had been an offer from Spurs, "but it wasn't the right time to go."
By August no deal had materialized, and Spurs were yet again linked with Damiao with a transfer window about to shut.
Circumstances had changed. Andre Villas-Boas was Tottenham manager now. And with Damiao spending some of the summer in Britain as part of Brazil's Olympic Games squad, his proximity brought the deal closer to home for Spurs.
Scrambling for a Deal in January 2013
Tottenham were in need of a striker this past January. Defoe and Adebayor were the only senior forwards in Villas-Boas' squad, and the latter was heading out to the African Cup of Nations.
“For Damiao, he had a spectacular Olympics. We follow the best players and youngsters. Leandro fits this profile.
“He has had injuries after London 2012, but he is a player that is always on our list.”
Villas-Boas soon played down the prospect of Damiao joining him at Tottenham.
"Leandro is a player that we have always appreciated at this club [but] it is extremely unlikely that he will play for Tottenham," Villas-Boas told his press briefing, prior to the Queens Park Rangers game (via BBC Sport).
As the transfer window came to a close though, the London Evening Standard reported that Villas-Boas had instructed his chairman, Daniel Levy, to push through a deal. Speculation was rife about the details of Spurs' interest.
It proved a no-go in the end. The Guardian wrote of Spurs' £13 million bid being short of Internacional's valuation. Internacional's director of football, Marcelo Medeiros, told the newspaper, "the offer was well below what we expected."
David Hytner added in his report:
Sources in Brazil put the bid at £13m, which was some way short of what Internacional would demand for a player whose official release clause is £42m and who has third-party ownership issues.
The intricacies of the deal had apparently proved too complicated for even master negotiator Levy to work his way through.
The Next Part of the Damiao Saga
That same Guardian story had indicated a transfer could be completed in the summer. If you believe recent speculation, a deal could be on the cards.
Italian newspaper Tutto Mercato (via Sky Sports) carried quotes from Internacional president Giovanni Luigi at the beginning of May.
"Recently we talked with Tottenham," Luigi is reported to have said. "Leandro is very likely to play games in England in the coming year."
Could, after all of this, Damiao's future be at Internacional?
At the beginning of February, Damiao told Porto Alegre newspaper Correio do Povo (via Sky Sports), "I always wanted to stay at Internacional, regardless of any offers that could come." He added:
"I certainly thank Tottenham [for their interest], they are a big club in Europe, but my focus is on Inter. I hope to help Inter for a long time, I have a long contract and I am very happy and focused."
With Brazil hosting the World Cup next year, it makes sense that Damiao might want to stay where Luiz Felipe Scolari can keep a closer eye on him.
If you are tired of hearing/reading the name of Leandro Damiao, be prepared. This saga is not yet over.