Boro bid for Barcelona's Nadal

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The revelation that Middlesbrough have made a bid for the Barcelona defender, Miguel Angel Nadal, and that Emerson was again back in Brazil yesterday fuelled rumours of a part-exchange deal in the offing.

"We put in a bid for Nadal a couple of weeks ago but Barcelona have told us that they want to sign another centre-half before they will let him come to us," Bryan Robson, the Middlesbrough manager, said of the Spanish international Manchester United have also made strenuous efforts to sign. "There is a deadline in Spain for signing players of 7 December, so unless Barcelona get someone in very quickly it could be difficult for us. We have put in a bid. Barcelona haven't accepted it, but we are continuing to monitor the situation."

The Spaniards want pounds 3m for Nadal and they could offer a player-plus-cash deal for Emerson. Robson has declared that he would accept offers around pounds 10m for the midfielder who might find it easier to settle in Catalonia than Teesside.

The only certainty for Boro supporters is that the Brazilian, who has gone missing twice in the last three weeks, will not be around to play in the Premiership match at Leicester City tonight. He has completed a three-match suspension, but was given permission to fly home on Friday with the aim of returning with his wife to try to solve the problems the couple have been experiencing in Britain.

Boro will also be without Emerson's fellow-Brazilian, Juninho, who is expected to take three weeks to recover from the ankle injury suffered in Saturday's defeat at Aston Villa.

The Villa striker Dwight Yorke will miss Saturday's trip to Southampton through World Cup commitments, even though Trinidad and Tobago cannot qualify for the 1998 finals in France. "It's a blow, but there's nothing we can do about it if he is requested to play," Brian Little, the Villa manager, said.

Francis Lee is to surrender his position as the major shareholder of Manchester City in a refinancing deal that will inject pounds 5m into the struggling First Division club. It is understood that Lee, who will remain as chairman, will reduce his holding from just under 30 per cent to 15.5 per cent. Control will pass to the 53-year-old Manchester businessman, Stephen Boler, who is to buy five million unissued shares to take his stake from 13 per cent to 53 per cent.

Boler, a friend of the late former chairman, Peter Swailes, has collected around pounds 60m from the flotation of his company, Limelight, and now wants to take a more active role in the club without joining the board.

NORTHERN IRELAND (World Cup Group Nine v Albania, Belfast, 14 December): Wright (Reading), Fettis (Nottingham Forest); Worthington, McMahon (both Stoke), Rogan (Millwall), Gillespie (Newcastle), Hughes, Dowie, Rowland (all West Ham), Lennon, Hill (both Leicester), Lomas (Manchester City), Taggart (Bolton), Hunter (Reading), Gray (Nancy), Horlock (Swindon), Griffin (St Johnstone), Morrow (Arsenal), Nolan (Sheffield Wednesday).