Premier League’s January spending set to top £100m

ASTON VILLA’S club record £24m bid for Sunderland striker Darren Bent looks set to trigger a flurry of transfer window activity that propels top flight spending past the £100m mark.

Hard-up Premier League clubs spent just £30m in total last January but Bent’s proposed move would take this month’s total to around £65m with almost two full weeks of trading left.

The 26-year-old underwent a medical in the Midlands yesterday ahead of a move thought to be worth an initial £18m, with a further £6m in incentives.

Bent’s switch is expected to directly or indirectly facilitate several other deals, with Villa tipped to balance the books by selling players and Sunderland likely to use their windfall. Liverpool, meanwhile, were already believed to be ready to spend, while Tottenham look likely to sign Everton’s Steven Pienaar after having a bid accepted last night.

Last year’s shortage of big deals – £7m was the highest fee paid in January 2010 – followed big-spending windows in 2008 (£150m) and 2009 (£170m).

But with sides jockeying for position in one of the tightest top flight seasons for years – only six points separates bottom side West Ham and 12th placed Everton – chairmen appear more willing to sanction signings that could make a vital difference.

Villa have already shelled out £7m on Cameroon midfielder Jean Makoun and could be looking to recoup some of that money by offloading one, or both, of their England wingers, Stewart Downing and Ashley Young, who are on Liverpool’s radar.

The Merseysiders are traditionally conservative spenders in January, but a £15m move for Ajax striker Luis Suarez has been mooted.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Champions League chasing Chelsea had hoped to gazump rivals Spurs over Pienaar by offering Everton more momey, but Spurs agreed a fee of around £2m.

Arsene Wenger has already outlined his determination to sign a central defender to cover for Thomas Vermaelen, while goalkeeper Anders Lindergaard has joined Manchester United.

Deals that are still to be done

Darren Bent’s record move to Villa is likely to be the first of many big money purchases between now and the end of January.

Steven Pienaar is currently the subject of a tug-of-war between Chelsea and Spurs, who have both had bid accepted. A mystery top European club is also interested.

Robbie Keane’s nomadic career is set for another chapter. He failed to agree terms with Birmingham, but soon to be flush Sunderland are an option.

Luis Suarez has been linked with Liverpool, as has Stewart Downing who may well be on the move if Villa are intent on balancing the books once Bent arrives.