Asprilla transfer looks imminent

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The Independent Online

Faustino Asprilla said yesterday that he had spoken to Newcastle's manager, Kevin Keegan, and his transfer from Parma to Newcastle United was imminent.

"I have had a long talk with Kevin Keegan, who wants me at all costs," the Colombian striker said after a training session at the Italian Serie A club.

Asked how he felt about the wrangling over the transfer, which at one stage appeared to be off because of disagreements between the clubs over his fitness, he said: "I feel like a doll that has been tossed about from one side to the other. Now it seems that the deal has been agreed, and I will show what I am worth by scoring goals."

Parma's lawyer, Leandro Cantamessa, said Asprilla could leave for England as early as today. "We are just agreeing again the old contract, but the preliminary issues raised by Newcastle have gone. The English club admitted it had made a mistake and naturally there will be no reduction in the price," he said.

Cantamessa said the only remaining obstacle was Parma's insistence that Newcastle sign a declaration admitting in writing that they were mistaken in raising medical doubts over Asprilla. "This is the only reason why several hours, maybe even some days, will be needed to finalise the agreement. But there are no longer any doubts about it," he said.

However, Freddie Fletcher, the Newcastle chief executive, rejected suggestions that Parma are insisting on such a declaration. He said: "We have now spoken to Leandro Cantamessa, who has made it clear to us that the statement attributed to him... to the effect that Parma are insisting on a declaration from Newcastle United that we were mistaken in raising medical doubts over Faustino Asprilla was totally incorrect.

"Signor Cantamessa also said that he is hopeful that the deal will be settled within two or three days. I confirm this to be the case."

Asprilla, who has had some bitter arguments with Parma since he joined the club, attended training yesterday on the orders of Parma's coach, Nevio Scala, and looked in good form.

"We thought it was going to be the first training session of a new series, and instead it may be the last," said Scala, who admitted that he also harboured a desire to leave Italy for new challenges in English football.

"It will be an important experience for Asprilla. I won't hide the fact that I would like to follow him when my contract expires [in 1998]," he said. "I am sure that in a few years' time the English championship will be the best in the world. I also speak a little English."

Scala said that Asprilla was "completely injury-free". He added: "Maybe Newcastle wanted to save something on the price we initially agreed."

Parma's doctor, Luca Montagna, said Asprilla had cartilage surgery in 1991. "Since then, he has always played brilliantly. We haven't even checked him over recently. There was no need to."