Ipswich move close to Bent windfall

IPSWICH moved closer to a near £2.5 million windfall last night when the opening shots were fired in the keenly anticipated bidding war for ex-favourite Darren Bent.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH moved closer to a near £2.5 million windfall last night when the opening shots were fired in the keenly anticipated bidding war for ex-favourite Darren Bent.

Premiership pair Tottenham and West Ham both made bids for the goal ace sold by Town to Charlton two years ago and whose value has soared in that time.

Charlton, who paid £2.5m up front for Bent and handed over a further £100,000 based on appearances, have slapped a £15m price tag on the 23-year-old striker capped twice by England.


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While Tottenham's initial £8m offer was treated as derisory, especially since they had a much higher bid rejected in January, West Ham's much more realistic £12m bid moved them into pole position to sign Bent.

But the Hammers' offer also includes the option for Charlton to sign either midfielder Hayden Mullins or striker Marlon Harewood, both deemed surplus to requirements at Upton Park by manager Alan Curbishley.

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Relegated Charlton, anxious to assemble a side capable of regaining Premiership status next year, would rather negotiate a cash-only deal.

Boss Alan Pardew would then be in a position to continue a summer spending spree that has already seen Chris Iwelumo (Colchester), Luke Varney (Crewe) and Paddy McCarthy (Leicester) join the Addicks.

It was Curbishley, then in charge at The Valley, who signed Bent from Ipswich and barring a dramatic increase in Spurs' valuation he has emerged as firm favourite to be reunited with him.

Either Tottenham or West Ham would suit Bent, who has scored 37 goals in 79 appearances for Charlton and is known to be keen to remain in London.

If Charlton hold out for the full £ 15 million asking price - and West Ham are happy to pay that much - Ipswich stand to pocket exactly £2.48m as part of the original agreement.

Town are guaranteed 20 per cent of any profit and the cash would put them in a stronger position to succeed in their quest to sign top target Francis Jeffers from Blackburn.

Two bids for the 26-year-old player, who netted four times during a nine-game loan spell at Portman Road last season, have already failed.

The Premiership club value the ex-Everton, Arsenal and Charlton player at £1m and so far Ipswich have been reluctant to offer more than half that sum.

Armed with some of the cash from Bent's impending sale, Town boss Jim Magilton would presumably be allocated sufficient funds to meet Blackburn's valuation.

If no seven-figure bid is forthcoming, Rovers boss Mark Hughes has not ruled out the possibility of giving Jeffers a second chance to prove himself next season.

Town will not be able to spend the entire windfall on new recruits, with part of the cash making up the expected shortfall on season ticket sales and also swallowed up by general running costs.

Either Tottenham or West Ham would suit Bent, who has scored 37 goals in 79 appearances for Charlton and is known to be keen to remain in London.

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