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Spurs line up Valencia’s Mathieu as Vertonghen replacement

Spurs will try to sign Valencia’s left-footed centre back Jeremy Mathieu as a direct replacement for Jan Vertonghen if the Belgian should quit White Hart Lane this summer.

Coral reported in February that Vertonghen dropped an exit hint if Tottenham fail to qualify for the Champions League under Tim Sherwood. Spurs are now 11/2 for a top-four finish after receiving a 4-0 hiding from London rivals and Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Like Vertonghen, 30-year-old Mathieu can play centre half or left back. He is under contract at the Mestalla until 2017 and, according to the tabloids, has £17m release clause in that deal.

It is understood Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy believes he can sign Mathieu for less than that fee. Despite Los Che’s change of coach mid-season, he has played in all but two of their La Liga games throughout the campaign.

Vertonghen, meanwhile, is rumoured to be one of several options Barcelona are looking at to replace outgoing club captain Carles Puyol.

Catalan giants Barca, who are 7/2 second-favourites behind holders Bayern Munich to win the Champions League, are also interested in Chelsea’s David Luiz, Daniel Agger of Liverpool and out of favour Arsenal skipper Thomas Vermaelen.

Resurgent Ligue 1 side Monaco are also keeping tabs on Mathieu, and may make a move to bring him back to his native France. That all may depend on whether the Cote d’Azur club decide against taking up a contract extension for veteran defender and club captain Eric Abidal, however.

Mathieu, who has two caps, has been on the fringes of the French national team for the last three years, but Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps’ latest squad had big nods to youth in defence.

Abidal and Adil Rami, on loan at AC Milan from Valencia, both missed out on calls as Raphael Varane of Real Madrid and highly-rated Porto player Eliaquim Mangala were included.

Tottenham are now heavily odds-on at 1/10 to miss a top-four finish, and there has been widespread speculation that eventuality could cost Sherwood his job. Spurs have had to settle for Europa League football in each of the last three seasons.

Levy may move to replace Sherwood, despite him signing an 18-month contract in December, with former Swansea manager Michael Laudrup or Dutch national coach Louis van Gaal, who becomes a free agent after the World Cup, this summer.

Next for Spurs is their last 16 Europa League first leg clash with Benfica. Sherwood’s side are 6/5 for a home win and even-money to advance from the tie to the quarter-finals.