Football: Asprilla makes his way to Newcastle

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The Independent Online
Football

PHIL SHAW

Newcastle United are set to conclude their pursuit of Parma's controversial Colombian international striker, Faustino Asprilla, by signing him for a club-record fee of pounds 7m today.

Asprilla, 26, reportedly flew to London from Milan last night, en route to Tyneside, having agreed a four-year contract with the Premiership leaders worth pounds 15,500 a week. The deal would take Kevin Keegan's outlay in the transfer market beyond the pounds 40m mark in four years as Newcastle manager.

Talking on Italian television prior to his departure, Asprilla said: "I'm sad to leaving because I've had some good years in this city with this team. It would be a challenge playing in England. The prospect of taking part in the European Cup next season is an exciting one." He admitted his relationship with Parma's coach, Nevio Scala, had been "tense", adding: "Perhaps it's time to go."

Described by Colombia's former national coach, Francisco Maturana, as "always partying and hard to control", Asprilla is on probation in his home country following a firearms offence. If he joins Newcastle, he would have to report to the Colombian Embassy once a month.

Another Parma player, the Portuguese defender Fernando Couto, has emerged as a possible target for Manchester United. On the recommendation of the former England manager Bobby Robson, under whom Couto played at Porto, Alex Ferguson and his chief scout, Les Kershaw, watched the 26-year-old centre-back play for Portugal in Wednesday's 3-2 defeat by France in Paris. Parma value Couto at pounds 5m.

United yesterday confirmed that they have held talks with Milan about establishing a player-exchange system aimed at circumventing the Bosman ruling. Under the proposed agreement, Milan would have first option on any United player coming to the end of his contract, and vice- versa.

Paul Gascoigne has been ordered to stand trial in Italy next October on charges of injuring a photographer in Rome 18 months ago. The Rangers and England midfielder, who was then with Lazio, is alleged to have injured the photographer when trying to remove a roll of film from his camera. Gascoigne's legal adviser, Mel Stein, said: "If we have to make a plea it will be not guilty."

Birmingham's hopes of signing Vinny Samways from Everton and Vinnie Jones from Wimbledon were dashed yesterday. Samways was prepared to take a wage cut of pounds 3,000 a week but still could not agree personal terms, while an offer of pounds 300,000 for Jones was rejected.

Wimbledon offered their captain when Barry Fry, the Birmingham manager, asked inquired about Andy Clarke. "Sam Hammam said someone like Vinnie would do us the world of good," Fry said. "Not that he can play, but he's a good leader."

Leeds United have signed Uli Borowka, the 33-year-old German international utility defender, on loan from Werder Bremen until the end of the season. Bolton Wanderers are seeking clearance for Mohammed Ben Sylla, a striker from Guinea who is in dispute with his Dutch club, Willem II.

Ian Walker, the Tottenham goalkeeper, is doubtful for tomorrow's FA Cup match against Wolves after returning from the England "get-together" with a stomach complaint. Stuart Pearce may miss Nottingham Forest's tie with Oxford after sustaining a calf injury with England.

Gerry Francis is looking for justice from Uefa when they consider Tottenham's appeal against a European suspension in Geneva today. The Spurs manager believes they have an "outstanding" case in their attempt to overturn the one-year ban, imposed by the governing body of European football for the club's lukewarm approach to the Inter-Toto Cup last summer. "If there is any justice and commonsense it will all come out right," he said. "If the ban stands it would destroy everything we have all worked so hard to achieve."

Italy's clubs were left confused after a meeting with Uefa in Rome yesterday to discuss the Bosman ruling. The Uefa president Lennart Johansson, from whom many Italian clubs had expected guidance, told them that the path to follow was an agreement among themselves. Asked what Uefa would do if clubs ignored the rules, Johansson said: "We won't be able to issue judicial sanctions, only moral ones.

Inter-Toto appeal, page 22

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