With Tottenham reportedly on the lookout for a new goalkeeper, TEAMtalk's Ian Watson assesses three possible recruits for Andre Villas-Boas.
Villas-Boas' immediate priority may be to bolster his limited attacking options, but the new Tottenham boss also has a pressing concern at the other end of the pitch.
Brad Friedel will be 42 at the end of the coming season and the American accepts he cannot defer retirement for much longer. Friedel only arrived at Spurs last season, having spent the previous decade at Blackburn and Aston Villa earning himself a reputation as one of the Premier League's finest goalkeepers. Time is catching up with the former US national team stopper, however, with his lightning speed and reflexes understandably fading.
Heurelho Gomes and Carlo Cudicini still remain on the books at White Hart Lane, but Gomes' inconsistency, Cudicini's inactivity and Friedal's inability to reverse the aging affect mean Villas-Boas has a vacancy for a top-class goalkeeper.
The position looked to have been filled earlier in the summer, but only in the past week, two other experienced internationals have emerged as candidates for the job.
Stekelenburg filled the huge gloves of Edwin van der Sar in the Holland goal, with the Roma goalkeeper clearly having modelled his game on his predecessor. Stekelenburg, like van der Sar, is solid and unspectacular but could be on the market after just a year in Serie A.
The former Ajax keeper joined the Giallorossi last summer for a fee in the region of £5million, which seemed to be a bargain, especially when you consider the huge sum that Manchester United spent on uncapped teenager David De Gea. The 27-year-old, though, failed to impress in the Italian capital, with his debut season in Serie A marred by injury and two red cards. Could Stekelenburg be too introvert for Serie A - a league accustomed to more flamboyant stoppers?
Stekelenburg would offer Villas-Boas a safe pair of hands, which is exactly what Harry Redknapp saw in stop-gap Friedel last summer. The 6'6" giant, though, appears likely to remain in the bracket of goalkeepers just below the world's best.
New Roma coach Zdenek Zeman has reportedly identified Inter Milan keeper Julio Cesar as the man to replace Stekelenburg, with the Brazil number one surplus to requirements after seven seasons at the San Siro following the Nerrazzuri's €11million capture of Slovenia stopper Samir Handanovic from Udinese. But Tottenham have also registered an interest in the 32-year-old who, despite having two years remaining on his Inter contract, could be recruited for a price in the region of £5million.
Villas-Boas worked with Julio Cesar during his brief spell at Inter at a time when the keeper was establishing himself as one of the very best in the world game. Julio Cesar was Serie A's best stopper in 2009 and 2010, with the goalkeeper's form as big a factor as any other in Inter's domestic and European Double two years ago.
As Inter have faded since, Julio Cesar has fallen just short of the exceptionally high standards he set at the turn of the decade and a new challenge could be exactly what the sometimes-unorthodox Brazilian needs. At 6'1", Julio Cesar is not as physically imposing as some, but his presence is borne of an almost-arrogant confidence - a wonderful trait in any goalkeeper.
His mobility, reflexes and reactions give him the edge over many bigger goalkeepers and whoever signs Julio Cesar, whether it be Roma, Spurs or anyone else, they are sure to get value for money.
Tottenham looked almost certain to land Lloris earlier this summer but the club's interest in the Frenchman seems to have cooled due to Lyon's increased resolve not to lose their keeper.
The fact that Lyon's dominance of the French game ended with the arrival of Lloris from Nice is entirely a coincidence. Les Gones fended off interest from AC Milan and Spurs to sign the 21-year-old, who cost a hefty €8.5million in 2008. Fast-forward four years, a period during which the 6'2" keeper became national team captain, and Spurs are back for Lloris, who has re-established himself as of the very best number ones in world football after a dip in form which followed France's World Cup debacle in 2010.
Lyon, though, will only allow their prized asset to leave if they can make a hefty profit on the investment they made four years ago. Lloris is unlikely to depart Stade de Gerland for anything less than £12million, a price which has slowed Spurs' chase.
Lloris, though, would be worth the outlay. He offers not only an almost-unmatched level of experience for a goalkeeper of 25 years old, but also potential for further improvement. Lloris - a strong all-rounder with few obvious weaknesses - could occupy the Spurs net for a decade, and while Daniel Levy might have backed off recently, don't bet against the Tottenham chairman striking a deal with Jean-Michel Aulas before September 1.
Who do you think should be the last line of Villas-Boas' defence? Do Spurs need to sign a goalkeeper at all? Have your say by using the story comment facility below.