Eriksson calls Walker to say no to Blackburn

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Blackburn Rovers could pursue a compensation claim against Sven Goran Eriksson after the Sampdoria coach confirmed last night that he will not be joining the Ewood Park club as manager next summer.

Rovers insist they have a written agreement with Eriksson, signed late last year, in which the Swede committed himself to taking over in July when his current contract expired.

However, Eriksson's commitment to the move began to waver once interest from elsewhere in Italy - Serie A rivals Lazio - became apparent.

Blackburn's owner, Jack Walker, speaking to Radio Jersey last night, brought the speculation surrounding Eriksson's future to an end by confirming he would not be joining the club. Walker said the Sampdoria coach had telephoned him on Thursday to say he would be staying in Italy.

Walker said he was "terribly disappointed" by Eriksson's decision but would not confirm whether Blackburn would seek compensation. "It's too early to say at this stage," he said.

The Blackburn chairman, Robert Coar, said in a statement that the club had now received written notice from Eriksson advising that he would not be coming to Rovers this summer.

Blackburn have struggled to find a successor to Ray Harford, who resigned in October with the club sitting at the foot of the Premiership. Under the caretaker manager, Tony Parkes, Rovers have staged a remarkable recovery and now stand 14th in the Premiership, their highest position of the season. Parkes, however, does not want the job on a permanent basis.

Two candidates to emerge as frontrunners for the post are Joe Royle, the Everton manager, and Bruce Rioch, the former Arsenal manager. Royle was wanted before Eriksson but he did not wish to leave Everton at the time. However, the Goodison club's recent poor form may make him open to a move. Rioch works without a contract as Queen's Park Rangers' assistant manager and is known to be keen to return to a top post.

Internazionale's English-born coach, Roy Hodgson, is another option, as he seems certain to leave his post in the summer. However, Sampdoria, ironically, is his likely destination as Eriksson's replacement.

Bobby Robson, the beleaguered Barcelona coach, has also been touted to fill the vacancy. But the Spanish club's president, Jose Luis Nunez, insisted yesterday that Robson would be staying for the rest of this season -at least.

"Despite the criticism of the coach, Barcelona remains the best team and I want Robson to see out this season and the next one as well," Nunez said.