Newcastle face stiff competition for defender

NEWCASTLE will face stiff competition from Tottenham Hotspur if they choose to rekindle their long-standing interest in Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen this summer.

Newcastle officials made a number of inquiries about Vertonghen's possible availability during last month's transfer window, only to be put off by Ajax's £10m price tag.

Having failed to land a centre-half last month, Magpies manager Alan Pardew has already spoken of his desire to reinforce his defensive ranks in the close season.

Vertonghen remains a leading target, and with the 24-year-old due to enter the final year of his existing deal this summer, he could potentially be available for much less than £10m.

However, Newcastle are not the only club to be monitoring him closely and Tottenham sent a senior scouting delegation to Thursday's Europa League game between Ajax and Manchester United.

They are likely to have been impressed with what they saw, and sources in London claim Spurs will make a formal approach for Vertonghen once the transfer window reopens, whether Harry Redknapp is still their boss or not.

Ajax coach Frank de Boer is anticipating such an approach, and feels that Vertonghen is more than good enough to succeed in the Premier League, whether at St James' Park or White Hart Lane.

"Especially in the first half, it was very good, especially since we were playing against an English opponent," said de Boer. "Jan is already close to the level of Manchester United and he can still improve.

"Especially as he moves forward through the midfield, he is so dangerous. He sometimes does that too little in my eyes. That's a shame, because then his qualities are more conspicuous."

Meanwhile, Pardew is confident his players will be ready to hit the ground running when they entertain Wolves next weekend following a 14-day break.

"We'll be ready to go again next week," he said. "We've got 13 cup finals between now and the end of the season.

"I've given the players the weekend off, but we'll regroup on Monday ahead of two very, very important fixtures. We've got Wolves, and then we've got the derby (against Sunderland).

"The mood in the camp is very much one of putting the Spurs game behind us. I've every confidence we'll do that."

* Newcastle will face Fulham or Burnley in the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup if they beat Blackburn Rovers in the quarter-finals of the competition on Monday, February 27.

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