Tottenham will snap up unsettled South African star Steven Pienaar for a mere £2m next week – finally giving the 28-year-old a regular crack at Champions League football.
After months of contract negotiations, Pienaar is allowing his deal to run out at the end of the season – and will be available on the cheap when the January transfer window opens.
Despite interest from Manchester United, neighbours Liverpool, European champions Inter Milan and Bayern Munich, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy believes he has the deal all wrapped up, though he could have waited until the end of the season when Pienaar would be available for free.
The Daily Mirror in London quotes a Spurs source as saying: “Levy is certain he will sign Pienaar and it's just a matter of putting the squeeze on Everton to sell him in January rather than wait until the summer.
“Harry Redknapp thinks it will be a great bit of business – he says Pienaar is an intelligent midfielder who will slot straight into his squad, can play in a number of positions and provide competition for places.”
Everton may then sign Tottenham’s out-of-favour Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar. Everton boss David Moyes, clearly exhausted by the constant questions over Pienaar’s future, says only: “I would love Steven Pienaar to stay, but I am already resigned to losing him at the end of the season.”
Pienaar’s arrival at White Hart Lane would coincide with that of compatriot Bongani Khumalo, the Supersports United captain who signed a pre-contract agreement two months ago. Like Lucas Radebe and Philemon Masinga at Leeds in the 1990s, the idea of having two South Africans on board is seen as a significant factor in helping both players settle.
Spurs are well aware of the problems they had with their last South African, Mbulelo “OJ” Mabizela. He scored a beauty on his debut but played only seven games in two seasons in North London before returning home with “addiction problems”. Spurs officials believe Pienaar’s experience would be beneficial to Khumalo if he battles with homesickness.
Asked if he would be at Goodison Park for the rest of the season, Pienaar himself issued a terse: “No comment” but added: “The season is not over yet, so anything can happen. In football anything can happen, it can change tomorrow, today, no-one knows.”
Former Ajax midfielder Pienaar joined Everton from Borussia Dortmund for £2million in the summer of 2007. He was born in Westbury near Johannesburg and has won 55 caps for South Africa. Though many reports have highlighted the financial aspect of any move – he was apparently offered £65,000-a-week to become one of Everton’s highest-paid players – sources close to Pienaar insist the player himself simply wants to make a move to a club with regular Champions League ambitions.
Everton last qualified for the Champions League when they finished fourth, above arch-rivals Liverpool, in 2005. Pienaar recently called for Everton to spend on fresh talent, saying: “The only problem, like everyone seems to know, is the money issue - we need more players.”