Football: Arsenal join the chase for Ziege

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The Independent Online
Speculation about who will be Arsene Wenger's first major signing since taking control of Arsenal gathered pace yesterday with the news that he had made an enquiry about the powerful German international full-back, Christian Ziege.

Wenger has apparently pitched the North London club into competition with Juventus and Barcelona for the signature of the 24-year-old, whose outstanding attacking form on the flank during Germany's march to the European crown has lifted his valuation to pounds 4.8m.

Ziege told the German football magazine Kicker that Wenger had made his interest known to his club, Bayern Munich, and was quoted as saying that the possibility of a move to Highbury was "very interesting". Ziege's contract with Bayern runs until the middle of 1998 and includes a stipulation which limits any fee if he moves on before that time to pounds 4.8m.

Wenger is also rumoured to be pursuing Parma's Italian international midfielder, Gianfranco Zola, but he said: "There is nothing concrete. Every day the imagination of people grows very big because they want to see big-name players here. It is important to have big-name players, but the most important thing is the balance of the team."

George Weah, another who has been linked to Arsenal, last night gave the broadest hint yet he will be coming to play in England. Milan's Liberian striker is unable to come to London this weekend to collect the Commonwealth Sportsman of the Year award, but he said, mysteriously: "It's a great disappointment that I'm not in England to accept the award, which is a great honour. Hopefully, though, you will be seeing a lot more of me in the not too distant future."

David Ginola yesterday dismissed rumours linking him with Barcelona. The French winger insists he is happy at St James' Park and is not to be used by Newcastle's manager, Kevin Keegan, as bait to lure the Barcelona defender Miguel Angel Nadal to the north-east. "I don't know anything about Barcelona," he said. "I want to win the title with Newcastle. To win something is important. I want to prove that, as a foreigner, I am not here just for the money."

The Colombian Faustino Asprilla also denied rumours that he was hoping to leave St James'."I'm happy in England and I'm staying at Newcastle. I don't know why I'm on the bench. You'll have to ask Kevin Keegan," he said.

Ferencvaros, Newcastle's next opponents in the Uefa Cup, were fined 100,000 Swiss francs (pounds 51,000) by European football's governing body, Uefa, and warned they could be kicked out of European competition. The punishment followed crowd trouble when the Hungarians played the Greek club, Olympiakos, in a first round match in Budapest last month.

Wolves are expected to complete the loan signing of the German midfielder Jens Dowe early next week. The 28-year-old fell out of favour at Hamburg after threatening to hit their coach, Felix Magath, at half-time in the first leg of his side's Uefa Cup first round tie with Celtic at Parkhead.