Football: Blackburn in pounds 3m bid for Sforza

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The Independent Online
Roy Hodgson's Swiss connections have led Blackburn Rovers to offer Internazionale pounds 3m for the midfielder Ciriaco Sforza. Rovers, who have already made a pounds 4.2m bid for Sforza's fellow-countryman and Borussia Dortmund striker Stephane Chapuisat, made their move just hours before Inter played Schalke in last night's Uefa Cup final second leg.

The Premiership club are confident that Hodgson, who leaves Inter to manage Blackburn next month, can persuade Sforza to follow him to Ewood Park if the bid is accepted.

Hodgson has been Sforza's mentor since he was in charge of the Swiss national side and he took him to Inter last summer. Kaiserslautern, just promoted back to the Bundesliga, are also keen to sign Sforza, but are unlikely to be able to match Rovers' personal terms.

The prospects of Inter getting their hands on Barcelona's Ronaldo are slim. The club's president, Massimo Moratti, confirmed he had made an offer for striker, but was awaiting developments "with fatalism".

"If you want my impressions, I don't think that Ronaldo will choose Inter," said Moratti, who is reported to have offered Barcelona a pounds 40m deal for the 20-year-old Brazilian.

Shay Given, tired of being Tim Flowers' goalkeeping understudy, has turned down a new contract at Rovers paving the way for the expected move to Newcastle United. Given's impending arrival should nudge the transfer- listed keeper Pavel Srnicek even further towards West Ham who, however, will need to increase their pounds 500,000 offer. Bruno N'Gotty will not be playing in the black and white stripes next season, the defender having signed a one-year extension to his three-year contract at Paris St-Germain.

Bolton Wanderers have extricated Neil Cox from the mire at relegated Middlesbrough for pounds 1.5m. The full-back, irked at being left out of the FA Cup final, has been critical of his Boro team-mates, including making personal attacks on Fabrizio Ravanelli. Not surprisingly, Cox, whose contract expires next month, rapidly agreed to join the Premiership newcomers.

Bolton were just as enthusiastic. "I acted very, very quickly. He has a wealth of experience for someone who is only 25," Bolton's manager Colin Todd said. "He is another very good quality acquisition."

Kevin Kilbane, the Preston North End winger, has become the first pounds 1m signing in West Bromwich Albion's history. The fee exceeds Albion's 18- year-old transfer record of pounds 750,000, paid to Manchester City for another winger, Peter Barnes. Midfielder Julian Darby has left Albion for Preston in a separate deal worth pounds 150,000.

The Dutch goalkeeper Edwin Zoetebier is expected to become Sunderland's first signing as a First Division club. The 27-year-old will give his decision on the pounds 1m move from Volendam in the next fortnight.

Grimsby Town and Walsall saw their managers depart yesterday, but in differing circumstances. Kenny Swain was dismissed by the Mariners in the wake of the their relegation to the Second Division, while Chris Nicholl resigned at Bescot Stadium, despite efforts to make him sign a new contract.

The former Grimsby manager Alan Buckley, who was sacked by West Brom in January, may return for his second spell at Blundell Park, but his Walsall connections could also make him a candidate for their unexpected vacancy.

Shrewsbury Town have entrusted Jake King, their former captain, with the task of revitalising the club after their drop into the Third Division. The 42-year-old Scot, who takes over from the sacked Fred Davies, had only been the manager of non-league neighbours Telford since November.

Garry Nelson, the Torquay United player-coach and author of the widely- acclaimed Left Foot Forward, an account of his life as a journeyman player, has retired from football and quit his job at Plainmoor. The 36-year-old Nelson is taking up a senior post with the Professional Footballers' Association, the players' union.

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