Villa play £25m hardball to ward off Spurs' Benteke bid
Andre Villas-Boas will have to break Tottenham Hotspur's transfer record for the second time this summer if he steps up his interest in Christian Benteke.
Villas-Boas has identified Benteke as a potential target after missing out on David Villa, who joined Atletico Madrid, but will be asked to pay £25m by Aston Villa for the Belgium international.
Chelsea are also considering a move for the 22-year-old after missing out on targets of their own, including Edinson Cavani and Robert Lewandowski, while Arsenal could come into the equation if their protracted bid to sign Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain collapses.
Spurs are understood to be Benteke's preferred destination, however, and Villas-Boas is ready to press ahead in his attempts to solve the club's shortage of strikers, with uncertainty surrounding the futures of both Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe.
Villa, however, are determined to demand a minimum of £25m for the wantaway forward, who has handed in a transfer request, and will take an aggressive stance in the hope of keeping him for at least one more season.
Villa chairman Randy Lerner is mindful that Spurs and Chelsea will be reluctant to pay such a hefty fee for a player with only one Premier League season under his belt, even though he scored 23 goals in 39 appearances.
Benteke has three years remaining on the contract he signed last August when he arrived from Genk in an £8m deal, and Villa have made it clear they will dictate the player's future and are confident that their price could result in him starting next season with them.
Villa are not interested in any player swaps as part of any transfer and will demand a straight cash deal with all the money up front, which means Spurs will have to spend significantly more than the £17m required to sign Paulinho from Brazilian club Corinthians.
The Midlanders' stance has been hardened by their disappointment at the conduct of Benteke's agent, Eris Kismet.
Benteke has not travelled with Paul Lambert's squad to Germany and has made it clear he will not sign the contract extension that was offered him to last month – a deal that would have doubled his current terms of £20,000 a week.
Spurs will offer him a more attractive salary but the stumbling block will be the fee – plus Villa's hardball tactics.
Darren Bent is heading for the exit regardless of Benteke's future and Wolfsburg have emerged as the latest club to consider offering the England international an escape route.
Newcastle and Fulham remain interested and are hopeful that Villa will lower the price of around £8m.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew wants the green light to make an official bid. "The obvious target at the moment is a striker," Pardew said. "It's difficult. I know there's been speculation, particularly about Darren Bent.
"I think I can comment on that because it sounds like at Aston Villa, he's not particularly involved. There is an interest in Darren, and there is an interest in three or four other players, who I shouldn't name because of their situations at their current clubs.
"When managers talk about my players, I think it's wrong, so I'm certainly not going to do it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)