Babbel ready to leave Bayern for United

Football
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The Independent Online
Manchester United's attempt to strengthen their defence by luring Markus Babbel from Bayern Munich is likely to succeed - because of the Bosman ruling. The Germans have a choice: either accept the pounds 5.5m offer from Old Trafford now or risk losing him for nothing.

United, who see the 24-year-old German international centre-back as the successor to the injury-prone Gary Pallister, have tabled a bid which is unlikely to be turned down because Babbel's contract runs out next June. Then, courtesy of the Bosman verdict, he could go to Old Trafford without Bayern receiving a fee.

Uli Honess, Bayern's general manager, said: "We have had an official bid from Manchester United and will be dealing with it in the next few days. If we accept the offer I presume the player will be going to Old Trafford."

United's manager, Alex Ferguson, has also offered Rangers pounds 5m for Brian Laudrup, who has said he wishes to leave Glasgow, and who was having talks with the Dutch club, Ajax, yesterday. If those break down, both United and Arsenal will attempt to keep the Danish international in Britain.

In United's favour is the persuasive power of their goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel, who was with Laudrup in the Denmark team that defeated Bosnia in a World Cup qualifier over the weekend.

Manchester City are considering making a bid for West Bromwich Albion's Richard Sneekes. Agents representing the 28-year-old Dutch midfielder are trying to persuade Maine Road to pair him with his fellow countryman, Gerard Weikens, who has been signed from SC Veendam for pounds 500,000.

Graeme Souness, who resigned as manager of Southampton last month, has agreed terms to become the coach of the Italian Serie B side, Torino. The former Sampdoria player should sign a three-year contract worth pounds 300,000 a year by the end of next week.

Roy Hodgson is set to complete his first signing for Blackburn this week, with the Swiss international defender, Stephane Henchoz, 22, expected to conclude a pounds 3m move from the German club, Hamburg. Hodgson gave Henchoz his international debut when he was coach of the Swiss national side.

Coventry City head a clutch of Premiership clubs vying to sign Craig Burley, the versatile Scottish international who was left out of Chelsea's FA Cup-winning 14 last month. Burley has a year left on his contract at Stamford Bridge, but is understood to be ready to move on after failing to make even the substitutes' bench at Wembley.

The Stoke City board will meet this week to discuss a written offer of pounds 2.5m from Birmingham for last season's leading scorer, Mike Sheron. Birmingham have also renewed their interest in Port Vale's Northern Ireland winger, Jon McCarthy, for whom they had a pounds 1.5m bid rejected last season.

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