Football: `Board blocked' Naybet transfer

MANCHESTER UNITED'S plc board have been accused of wrecking Noureddine Naybet's pounds 6m move to Old Trafford by the player's agent.

The Moroccan centre-half was back in Spain yesterday, training with Deportivo La Coruna, following the collapse of his transfer hours before the Champions' League deadline. But the recriminations over the transfer debacle continued last night with Naybet's agent, Willie Mackay, claiming that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to sign the player but that the board had proved awkward.

Naybet, who speaks little English, denied there was a medical problem and claims he was only offered the same money he is already on in Spain. Mackay said: "Noureddine has the utmost respect for Sir Alex Ferguson, but the talks in the boardroom were nothing but window dressing."

The deal started to turn sour when United discovered that Naybet did not possess a French passport, as they had been told. Naybet had a quick medical check from club doctors at the Cliff training ground and was asked about one ankle being bigger than the other. However, as his camp explained, many players carry injuries and Naybet has been a regular for his club.

Talks on a contract moved slowly as the problem of gaining a work permit and how it would affect Naybet playing in the opening group games of the Champions' League was investigated. When United found that Naybet could not be registered properly before the midnight deadline on Tuesday, the deal was cancelled.

Martin Edwards, United's chief executive, made that decision, while Sir Alex did not take part in the negotiations. Transfer dealings remain a matter for the board, and, in any case, Sir Alex was in Switzerland.

It is not the first time United have failed to push through a deal. Two of Mackay's other players also suffered the same fate: Marcel Desailly met United before signing for Chelsea, the transfer collapsing over personal terms, while the Cameroon international Marc-Vivien Foe was rejected after a medical. He joined West Ham.