Football: Benfica and Souness snap up Poborsky

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The Independent Online
Karel Poborsky, the Czech international, yesterday signed a three- and-a-half year contract with the Portuguese club, Benfica. The transfer fee for the winger was not disclosed.

Poborsky, who has been kept on the substitutes' bench at Manchester United for most of the season, said he left the Premiership leaders because he wanted regular first-team football. "At Manchester I played only sometimes," Poborsky told a news conference in Lisbon. "I can play very much here, I think. For me it's very good."

The Benfica president, Joao Azevedo, said that the 25-year-old striker would play in next Saturday's game at the league leaders, Porto. United were prepared to let Poborsky go because they risked losing him at the end of the season when his work permit was due for renewal. Under government guidelines, Poborsky needed to play in 75 per cent of United's matches to be obtain a new permit, but he had appeared in just over half of their games this season. In total he made 48 appearances for United during his one-and-a-half seasons at Old Trafford and scored six goals.

Alex Ferguson's Old Trafford hand was nevertheless strengthened yesterday with the news that the Irish international full-back Denis Irwin is ready to make his comeback as early as next weekend. United could welcome back Irwin, who suffered knee ligament damage against Feyenoord in the Champions' League last month, for the FA Cup third-round tie against Chelsea on Sunday in place of Philip Neville, who begins a two-match suspension.

Irwin said yesterday: "I am nearly there now. I am training with the first team and I just need to get back in the swing of things. The Christmas games came a bit too quick for me but we'll have to wait and see how it is. Phil's suspension could help. The way the side has been playing you always wonder whether you will get back in or not."

United travel to Highfield Road today, but the Coventry manager Gordon Strachan has hit out at the need for the Christmas crush of fixtures. Strachan said: "Let's see how hard we can work the players when they're really tired. When it's muddy, let's play as many games as possible. It's easier for the bigger clubs. There's no doubt about that; they've got the squads."

Against West Ham on Boxing Day, Coventry were missing Gary Breen and Paul Williams through suspension, and Gary McAllister, David Burrows and John Salako with injuries. The teenager Sam Shilton was called on for his second start of the season, while Michael O'Neill made only his third appearance.

Howard Kendall, the Everton manager, is unsure whether he will be able to secure the services of the French striker Mickael Madar. The forward returned to Deportivo La Coruna at the start of the week and Kendall said yesterday: "I haven't seen my secretary - he's been trying to contact the authorities there."

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has prescribed a trip to the South of France and a course of "water therapy" to repair the club captain Tony Adams' battered body. Adams, 31, will seek a cure for his problems by spending a week swimming and exercising in a remedial water tank. After suffering two years playing through the pain of a damaged knee, ankle and ribs, Adams has been ordered to the Mediterranean after his back seized up in training last week.

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