Football: Benfica deny Souness exit

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BENFICA DISMISSED press reports yesterday that the club were seeking a replacement for their embattled coach, Graeme Souness.

"Souness is the coach of Benfica and will remain as coach of Benfica," said Martin Cabral, a club spokesman. He said the former Liverpool and Scotland midfielder, who joined Benfica in November 1997, had a contract until June 2000.

Portuguese newspapers reported that Benfica were seeking a new coach after a series of poor results, notably a humiliating 3-0 home defeat by Boavista earlier this month. "On his way out", read the headline in The Record, with a photograph of Souness walking through an exit door. The newspaper also reported that the club chairman, Joao Vale Azevedo, had authorised the search for a new coach.

According to reports Benfica have already approached Radomir Antic, who has just returned to Atletico Madrid as coach for a second time, and Guus Hiddink, who coached the Netherlands at the 1998 World Cup and was sacked by Real Madrid last month. Benfica are third in the Portuguese First Division, six points adrift of the leaders Porto.

The Swiss club Grasshopper Zurich said yesterday they were releasing Kubilay Turkyilmaz, the former Swiss international striker, and the defender Giuseppe Mazzarelli. "Trainer Roger Hegi is planning Grasshoppers' sporting future without both players," the club said in a brief statement.

"For this reason both players, whose contracts expire on June 30, 2000, are no longer on the first team. Both are released immediately and can negotiate with other clubs." Turkyilmaz, an ethnic Turk, has not played for Switzerland since Gilbert Gress took over as coach more than a year ago.

Lyons' Swiss striker, Marco Grassi, currently serving a four-match European ban, has been suspended for three French domestic games following his dismissal for hitting an opponent in a French League game at Le Havre last weekend. Grassi, who missed both legs of Lyons' Uefa Cup quarter- final against Bologna, elbowed Yann Soloy, the Le Havre midfielder, in the face in the 33rd minute of their 1-0 defeat.

The volatile Swiss international received a four-match Uefa suspension after being sent off for slapping Milan Lesnjak of Club Bruges in their third round, first leg, Uefa Cup tie in November.