Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp insists he will not let Roman Pavlyuchenko leave the club next month unless he has already lined up a suitable replacement for the Russia striker.
This week Lokomotiv Moscow were the latest in a long line of clubs to be linked with Pavlyuchenko, who wants to leave White Hart Lane in order to boost his chances of playing for his country at Euro 2012.
The arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor, and the excellent form of Rafael van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe, has meant Pavlyuchenko is yet to start a Barclays Premier League game this term.
The 29-year-old has played most of his matches in the Europa League but, with Spurs now on the brink of elimination from the competition, the forward’s chances of getting more game time to persuade national coach Dick Advocaat that he merits a place in Russia’s Euro 2012 squad are receding by the day.
Several clubs could bid for Pavlyuchenko when the transfer window opens in January, but Redknapp does not want to damage his side’s chances of a top-four finish by leaving himself short of strikers.
Redknapp said: “If we let Pav go we’d leave ourselves short.
“If he decides he wants to go and the club get a good offer then we’ve got to be ready to replace him from somewhere.”
Spurs have been linked with a number of strikers in recent months, including Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, his transfer-listed team-mate Nicolas Anelka, and Brazil international Leandro Damiao.
Redknapp also hinted that he would launch a new bid for Bolton and England centre-half Gary Cahill last week, but the Spurs boss denies that he has given chairman Daniel Levy a January wish-list.
“We (Redknapp and Levy) talk about players all the time, but I couldn’t sit here and say we’ve got targets. We haven’t,” the 64-year-old said.
Redknapp faces a big dilemma about who to play up front alongside Adebayor at Stoke tomorrow.
Van der Vaart’s stellar displays were key in helping Tottenham turn around their season, but Defoe has prospered in the Dutchman’s recent absence through injury, scoring in successive games.
Defoe missed training with a minor hamstring problem yesterday, but should be fit for tomorrow, leaving Redknapp with a tough, but pleasant call to make.
“It’s a nice problem to have,” he said. “They have both been scoring when they have played.
“Rafa was in great form, scoring lots and every time Jermain has played he has scored.
“Whoever has come in has come in has done well and the team has been playing well.”
Whoever does play up front, they are likely to come up against former Spurs centre-half Jonathan Woodgate.
Woodgate made just 65 appearances for Tottenham during his three-and-a-half-year spell with the club thanks to a series of serious injuries.
Redknapp regularly spoke of Woodgate as one of the best centre-backs in the country when fit, but a groin problem meant the defender was only able to play once in his last 15 months at Tottenham, and he was released in the summer.
“I was sorry to lose him,” Redknapp said. “But you can understand the club’s point of view. You’re paying his wages every week but he had barely kicked a ball all year.
“If it would have been same this year it would have been a nightmare so I couldn’t argue that we shouldn’t release him.
“I’m glad he is playing. I was hoping that he would go and do well somewhere because he is a fantastic fella. You wouldn’t meet a better player than Woody.
“He is a top player when he is fit.”
Spurs will move six points clear of Chelsea with a victory tomorrow and they also have the chance to break a couple of records.
Avoiding defeat will mean they have gone 12 league matches unbeaten for the first time in the Premier League era, and a win will see them record seven straight victories for the first time since 1967.