Dublin consortium contacts Dons

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The Independent Online
Contrary to denials by Wimbledon's owner, Sam Hammam, negotiations have opened to move the club to Dublin. A consortium led by the manager of the rock group U2, Paul McGuinness, and a Cork property developer, Owen O'Callaghan, has made an approach to buy a 74 per cent shareholding with the long-term intention of taking the club to Ireland.

The deal would cost the Irish investors around pounds 20m, of which half would be made available to the manager, Joe Kinnear, for players. This would be on top of the estimated pounds 60m required to build a new 40,000-seat national stadium on land owned by O'Callaghan in Dublin.

Planning permission has already been gained for the project, but the earliest Wimbledon could move in would be August 1999. Under the tentative plans, Hammam would retain 26 per cent of the club and would continue as chief executive.

However, there is no guarantee that Wimbledon, who currently share Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park ground, would gain the sanction of the Premier League, the Football Association or the FA of Ireland. Salvatore Cuccu, a spokesman for Uefa, European football's governing body, stressed: "Wimbledon are an English club with a home in England and Uefa is not in favour of them moving to a foreign country."

Middlesbrough have told their Italian striker, Fabrizio Ravanelli, that he will not be going to Manchester United - or anywhere else. The pounds 7m summer signing from Juventus sparked transfer speculation on Tuesday when he reportedly declared an interest in playing for United, who denied making a pounds 10m offer for Ravanelli.

Yesterday Keith Lamb, Middlesbrough's chief executive, said: "We have read and heard the stories, but there is absolutely no truth in them." Ravanelli, meanwhile, said that he would be happy to sign a two-year extension to his four-year contract, if Middlesbrough wanted him to.

Everton have lodged an official complaint with Fifa, football's world governing body, about the activities of an agent whom they claim has approached their winger, Andrei Kanchelskis, about a possible move to the Italian side, Fiorentina.

Aston Villa have agreed to a transfer request from their 36-year-old Republic of Ireland defender, Paul McGrath. Brian Little, the Villa manager, said: "I am open to offers for Paul, although, as yet, nobody has enquired." The asking fee is believed to be about pounds 200,000.

The Northern Ireland striker Phil Gray wants to leave the French club, Nancy, because of a contractual dispute. However, as part of the post- Bosman rules under which Gray joined Nancy for nothing from Sunderland, he is unable to return to a British club this season.

The Leicester midfielder, Mustapha Izzet, has abandoned hopes of playing World Cup football for Turkey - because he has to do national service in the Turkish Army before he can play for the national team.

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