Barcelona move for McManaman

Liverpool ready to accept Spanish club's pounds 12m bid

Football

Steve McManaman, one of Liverpool's finest home-grown talents, may join Barcelona today for pounds 12m. The Spanish club tabled their offer yesterday and are keen to complete the transfer by midnight tonight, which is the deadline for registering players for the Champions' League.

McManaman was in Spain yesterday having talks with Barcelona, who offered a six-year contract and wages of more than pounds 30,000 per week, which would double his present pay. However, they failed to reach agreement in the first round of talks and it was reported last night that the deal was under threat because of McManaman's pay demands. Barcelona were also reported to have set up a possible alternative move for Rivaldo, Deportivo La Coruna's goalscoring Brazilian midfielder.

Under his present five-year deal with Liverpool, signed three years ago, McManaman is understood to earn around pounds 12,000 per week. As he did not request a move he would probably receive a severance payment from Liverpool of around pounds 200,000.

Liverpool's board considered Barcelona's offer at an emergency meeting yesterday and are understood to have accepted it. It is believed they considered the offer too good to turn down, particularly in view of McManaman's failure in the last year to realise fully his huge potential.

It is understood that Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, has not opposed the sale. The proceeds would be available for him to spend on players, and a pounds 3m deal to recruit the Internazionale central defender, Massimo Paganin, was being discussed last night.

Barcelona made their approach after Bobby Robson, the club's general manager, watched McManaman for the second time in five days when Liverpool lost to Leicester City in the Premiership on Wednesday evening. Louis van Gaal, formerly with Ajax, replaced Robson as Barcelona coach during the summer and buying players is now one of the key jobs for the former England manager.

Although they recently spent pounds 13m on Sonny Anderson from Monaco, Barcelona are not short of money after Ronaldo's move to Internazionale this summer. A transfer fee has yet to be agreed, but pounds 18m has already been paid to buy out the Brazilian's contract.

Barcelona will also earn millions from the Champions' League, presuming they qualify after managing only a 3-2 home win over the Latvian club Skonto Riga in the first leg of the preliminary round.

If the McManaman transfer goes through, it will be the second most expensive involving an English club, following Alan Shearer's pounds 15m transfer from Blackburn to Newcastle last year. It would also be the second big-name departure from Anfield this week, following John Barnes' move to Newcastle on a free transfer.

The sale of McManaman would leave Liverpool comfortably in the black on their recent transfer dealing. Nearly pounds 12m was spent in the summer on Paul Ince, Oyvind Leonhardsen, Danny Murphy and Karlheinz Riedle, but Stan Collymore was sold to Aston Villa for pounds 7m.

Although some Liverpool supporters had become frustrated by McManaman, his loss would be keenly felt at Anfield. As a Liverpool-born player, he has always had a special place in the Kop's affections.

Aged 25, McManaman joined the club from school and has scored 31 goals in 210 League appearances. He has also played 18 times for England since making his debut two years ago.

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