Football: Anelka attack by Gunners

THE RIFT between Arsenal and their unsettled striker, Nicolas Anelka, now seems terminal. There is little chance that the temperamental French international will ever wear a Gunners shirt again.

Although Anelka apparently wants to join Real Madrid, Arsenal have been discussing selling him to the Italian club, Lazio, for a fee of around pounds 22m. The 20-year-old has reportedly been to Rome to discuss terms with Lazio but his brothers, who act as his agents, have also been negotiating with the Spanish side.

David Dein, Arsenal's vice-chairman, launched a bitter attack this weekend on Anelka, who signed a four-year deal with the Gunners 11 months ago. "We will meet Anelka to discuss his future when he returns from holiday," he said, "but the club's view is that when a player is under contract he should not be able to move of his own volition. He cannot choose another club and expect us to acquiesce. If that happens you may as well hand agents and players the key to the door."

Arsenal have made a protest to Fifa, world football's ruling body, about an alleged illegal approach for the player from Real Madrid. The Gunners manager, Arsene Wenger, said: "Two weeks ago, I was sure Anelka was going to stay but now I'm a little more pessimistic because he is showing a real determination to leave us."

Another Frenchman, Olivier Dacourt, also looks set to abandon the Premiership. The 24-year-old Everton midfielder, a pounds 4m signing from Strasbourg a year ago, is likely to complete a pounds 6.5m move from Goodison Park to another French club, Lens, this week.

The former Luton Town midfielder, Radomir Antic, has been sacked as coach of Atletico Madrid for a second time.

Antic was dismissed by the club's autocratic president, Jesus Gil, in his side's dressing-room after Saturday's 3-0 Spanish Cup final defeat to Valencia. "It was a despicable thing to do," Antic said. "He [Gil] couldn't even wait until the morning to tell me. He didn't even respect the pain of defeat."

The replacement for Antic will be the Valencia coach, Claudio Ranieri, who agreed to switch clubs after Saturday's final in Seville.

Newry Town became the first Irish League club to win an Intertoto Cup tie when they overcame the Croatian outfit, Hrvatski Dragovoljac, on Saturday. A 2-0 victory in County Down gave the part-timers a 2-1 first-round aggregate success and earned them a second-round tie against the German Bundesliga club MSV Duisburg, with the first leg in the Ruhr on Saturday.

Robert Casey and Adrian Larkin, with his first touch of the ball after coming on as a substitute with 10 minutes to go, scored the goals which overturned Newry's first-leg deficit. The Welsh side Aberystwyth Town went out, though, 4-3 on aggregate to Floriana after a 2-1 defeat in Malta.

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