Chelsea, Spurs, and Lyon Battle For Dynamo Zagreb Starlet Dejan Lovren
As the January Transfer window gets moving, it now appears that Tottenham, Chelsea, and Olympique Lyonnais are chasing the highly rated Dynamo Zagreb centre half Dejan Lovren.
The 20-year-old Croatian international has caught the eye over the last couple of seasons as a player of some potential. Clubs throughout Europe have monitored the youngster's progress since 2004 when he first broke into the Croatian U-17 team.
Bernard Lacombe, Lyon's Director of Football and one of the most respected men in world football, has had scouts checking on Lovren since the turn of last season and has signalled that a "young defender who can play through the centre" is his priority in this transfer window. Sources at the club have confirmed to L'Equipe that Lovren is his primary target.
Lyon originally bid €7 million for the player, but that fee was rebuffed when it emerged that Spurs were looking to link the youngster up with their growing Croatian contingent.
Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar, and Vedran Corluka are all first team players under Harry Redknapp and been influential as Tottenham sit in 4th position in the English Premier League.
An important point to note is that all three are former Dynamo Zagreb players.
The 6'2" youngster would almost certainly go straight into the first team squad at Spurs, as Redknapp steadies himself for life without one of his first choice centre halves.
Ledley King is out of contract in June and is believed to be mulling over a pay as you play offer from the club. King is rated as one of the best defenders in the EPL, but his career has been blighted by a chronic knee injury that permits the defender to only play once every seven days.
With that in mind, Spurs have employed a personal trainer for King. Nathan Gardner's regime for the defender sees him perform marathon swimming sessions along side a specific weight training program designed for the player's musculature type.
Redknapp has urged his chairman, Daniel Levy, to award King a new contract, but it remains to be seen if the club will take another gamble on the player.
Spurs have other problems in the same position with the news that Jonathan Woodgate may not return this season at all. Tottenham's other first choice centre half has also suffered his fair share of injury misery, and it now seems as if the injury that ruined his time at Real Madrid has re-surfaced.
As a player, Lovren is comfortable in central midfield too. He is very strong in the tackle, has good pace, and has been described as dominant in the air. He is definitely a player who both Lyon and Spurs need immediately, but news that Chelsea have entered the fray has muddied the water.
For Chelsea, the player would almost definitely be for the future. Club captain John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, and Alex are all first team regulars, while Serbian international defender Branislav Ivanovic is usually the first player to fill in if any are missing.
Since Chelsea entered the race for the youngster's signature, Dynamo Zagreb have raised his asking price from €7 million to €10 million. However, this seems to have doubled Tottenham's and Lyon's efforts, if anything.
Last Wednesday a delegation from Lyon led by Lacombe and their owner and chairman Jean-Michel Aulas flew to Zagreb in an effort to broker a deal with the Modri, but no deal was struck, even though minor progress was made.
Lyon have one of the most sophisticated scouting systems in world football and are credited with finding some of the best talents in football over their rise in the last 20 years from a provincial team. Their "wisdom of crowds" approach has redefined how clubs should approach transfers.
Harry Redknapp has ordered extra scouting reports on the player, as Spurs step up their interest in the player, and chairman Daniel Levy is believed to be heading to Croatia next week in a bid to negotiate the fee.
At the beginning of the season, Lovren was unheard of by most outside of Croatia, and he was valued at €2.5 million. Since then his stock has risen. Slaven Bilic has called him into the international team, and he has since won two caps, and clubs around Europe have begun to take notice.
Spurs need a new centre half. Lovren easily fits the bill, and it remains to be seen if the Croatian ties at the club will become a factor. Under their current manager Spurs are perfectly placed to break into the Champions League positions.
Under Lacombe and Aulas, Lyon have become the dominant force in France and are one of the top clubs in Europe having built a reputation for finding and developing talent.
Chelsea have Roman Abrahmovich's billions to spend and are perennial Premier League and Champions League challengers.
And yet, Lovren may see Zagreb as the best place for his future development.