Football: Absent Saib to feel Graham's force

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The Independent Online
MOUSSA SAIB could be on his way out of White Hart Lane after defying George Graham and flying to join the Algerian national squad for their friendly against Tunisia on Sunday.

George Graham will contact the Football Association for guidance on dealing with the midfielder's "disappearing" act. The Tottenham manager said: "He has shown a lack of respect to the club and the fans and, without question, he'll be seriously disciplined."

Saib, the Algerian captain who was signed by Graham's predecessor Christian Gross for pounds 3m from Valencia less than a year ago, has only recently returned to training after a back operation in September and after just two games in the reserves to step up his rehabilitation programme he was refused permission to link up with the Algerian squad.

But after discovering that Saib had disregarded that order, Graham said: "I'm extremely disappointed with the boy and also the Algerian FA, who have not given us any feedback on our message to them that he is not medically right to play at that level yet.

"What our fans will want to know is why isn't Saib available for Tottenham and yet suddenly pops up to play in Algeria. He has played only a game and a half in the reserves after a big operation on his back in September.

"He has been very well looked after here and that's what makes what he has done so disappointing. I'm contacting the FA for guidance about how we deal with this kind of situation. We told Saib he could not have permission to go to Algeria but then he's just decided to disappear."

Saib, who made only made sporadic appearances in the first-team last season, will now face a hefty fine but could also be placed on the transfer list.

Graham has a formidable track record of dealing with players who do not toe the line and there is no doubt he feels this is a major betrayal by Saib.

Graham said: "It's the kind of problem you sometimes get when you sign foreign players but I'm certainly not going to just accept it."

This new problem with a foreign player has not stopped Spurs eyeing up the French defender, Alain Goma. "I've been interested in Goma for some time but there are difficulties in trying to get him here," Graham said.

Paris St-Germain are believed to be holding out for a pounds 3m-plus fee for a player who has already indicated that he will be leaving them at the end of the season.

John Gregory yesterday shrugged off Stan Collymore's complaints about not getting in the Aston Villa team. Collymore, 28 today, has made it clear he is unhappy at not being a regular in the starting line-up. He has been left on the bench for six of his side's last eight games but Gregory, the Villa manager, said: "I haven't got time to worry about it - there's too much work to do.

Aston Villa are considering what to do next in their dispute over the valuation of highly-rated defender, Gareth Barry.

Villa were handed a suspended fine of pounds 16,000 and had pounds 200,000 of their television revenue diverted to Brighton and Hove Albion, following their refusal to pay the Third Division club the latest installment of the compensation settlement for the 17-year-old.

The club were withholding the payment until they are told just how the independent tribunal came to set a compensation figure that could top pounds 1m.

Villa's secretary-director Steve Stride said: "We have to decide whether to continue the fight or not. What we find baffling is that we wrote to the tribunal chairman back in October asking for an explanation as to how they arrived at such a high figure - and we are still awaiting a reply."

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