"I guarantee that I will stay, for now. There has been no proposal, no negotiation. Those who are around me knows my head is at Inter." - Leandro Damião to Zero Hora, 9 Jan. 2013.
The message from Internacional striker Leandro Damião on Wednesday was clear—he will not be leaving the club this January.
The player did admit, though, that should Internacional receive an offer they couldn't refuse, the situation may change. However, his words regarding proposals from Europe and, in particular Premier League side Tottenham, were clear. There has been no proposal.
Reports earlier this month that a bid was being prepared appeared to arise from an interview given to Brazilian sports media outlet Lancenet by Andre Villas-Boas at the end of December. The Portuguese spoke of his club's interest in Damião, but appeared to distance himself from any immediate move.
The quotes, though, were offered in the English media as a sign that the club's chase had resumed (via Daily Mirror) and, within days, an impending £15 million bid was being widely reported.
In truth, a January transfer was always highly unlikely. That is, of course, not to say that Spurs would not be interested should the striker have become available.
Internacional, though, are not looking to sell at present and Spurs, whose relationship with the Brazilian side is good with the two clubs maintaining a "strategic partnership" together, would have been aware of his asking price from early on.
Tottenham fans keen on Damião should not, though, be dismayed. The striker will almost certainly move to European football within the next 18 months and, given the club's long held interest in the striker, they are in a good position to capitalise.
"The Premier League holds great attraction, of course. I was in England for quite some time during the Olympics and it is a great country with good people." - Leandro Damião to The Elastico, 22 Nov. 2012.
The 23-year-old has previously stated his interest in moving to England and, given that there will be two years remaining on his contract this summer, his value will be arriving at its peak.
If Internacional want to both maximise the striker's time at the club and their potential profit, they will surely look to sell this summer. They may, though, choose to retain the striker until after the 2014 World Cup. However, in this respect, much will depend on the player.
Up until now, decisions regarding Damião's future have been left for Internacional to make. The player, content with his role and progress in Porto Alegre, has never sought to force a move away—as he may have done in the less prosperous times of Brazilian football's recent past.
Much, in that respect, will depend on the decisions of new Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. If Damião is an assured selection for the national side, he is unlikely to want to disrupt that by making a potentially risky move. Fall out of favour, and the move to Europe may appear to be a gamble worth taking.
The attraction for Spurs is simple. Damião, while yet to fully prove himself at the top level, has the potential to be brilliant. He's tall, strong, good in the air and possesses fine technical ability. Now, it is a task of honing those skills with experience. Do that and he can reach the very top of the game.
This is shown most clearly in his hold-up play. The target man has an array of flicks and tricks to bring those around him into play. He is also not afraid to drop deeper to influence proceedings, after all, he was a midfielder at youth level.
His problem, though, is holding the ball when his supporting players are not up with play. He must learn to better use his sizeable frame to shield the ball and this is something he will improve at with time. When it comes to striking basics, he is excellent.
So, for the moment, it is simply a waiting game for Tottenham. Villas-Boas played down the club's chances of signing the Brazilian on Thursday (The Sun) but, in reality, they have as good a chance as any.
As explained, a lot could change in the coming months regarding Damião's own plans for his immediate future. It is now likely to be he who ultimately decides when his exit is made.
In the light of that, Villas-Boas and the Spurs board will no doubt be monitoring his progress and mindset intently with a view to a future approach. After all, this is a player who is "always on their list."
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