TBILISI/LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur are in the middle of a football maelstrom both on and off the pitch.
On it record new signing Roberto Soldado scored twice as Spurs outclassed a poor Dinamo by 5-0 in Tbilisi to take control of their Europa League qualifying play-off tie.
But away from the match action they were embattled by reports that Wales midfielder Gareth Bale is close to being sold to Real Madrid and the possibility that Brazil forward Willian may slip through their fingers.
In Tbilisi Andros Townsend served a reminder of his value by scoring on the counter attack after 12 minutes before crossing for goals from both Paulinho and Soldado. Further strikes from Danny Rose and Soldado again effectivelt secured the tie for Spur ahead of the second leg back at White Hart Lane.
Manager Andre Villas-Boas lavished particular praise on Townsend, saying: “Andros has been working well in training, so we felt it was time to give him an opportunity and he did very well. If we have the type of performance we had [from him today] we can always count on him.
“For all the young players we are bringing through, the competition they face is extremely difficult and in my opinion, when you overcome that type of opposition you can only become a top player. He is doing it the right way. He seems very focused after last year’s experience.”
Madrid’s purchase of Bale for a world record £93 appears virtually concluded with shirts already on sale on the record European champions’ internet shop.
However confirmation had to be delayed until after the night’s testimonial match for Madrid’s old hero Raul Gonzalez against his last club Al-Sadd of Qatar. Raul scored a goal in a 5-0 win for Madrid with the other goals coming from Isco, Karim Benzema (penalty) and Jese (two).
Spurs have effectively already spent the money this summer with more allocated for the purchases of Anzhi Makhachkala forward Willian and Roma midfielder Erik Lamela.
Willian, valued at £30m, has undergone a medical but may be subject of a late offer from Chelsea.
** Red Bull Salzburg have lost an appeal against their Champions League elimination. The Austrian club were eliminated by Fenerbahce in the third qualifying round but complained in vain to the Court of Arbitration for Sport that the Turks had been banned over matchfixing then provisionally reprieved.