Football: Boro offer Ajax pounds 6m for Kluivert

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The Independent Online
Patrick Kluivert, the outstanding Ajax striker, could be on his way to Middlesbrough for pounds 6m. Bryan Robson, the Boro manager, has made an official approach for the 20-year-old Dutch international and is prepared to break his club's transfer record, backed by chairman Steve Gibson's money and robust season-ticket sales.

Middlesbrough are confident they can pull off the audacious signing and have put together a wage package worth around pounds 1.5m a year for the powerful striker who gave glimpses of his ability in Euro 96.

Kluivert has long been expected to join Milan for the 1997/98 season, but Robson has boldly tried to bring him to England. Boro also consider Kluivert is value for money in a British transfer market that values Alan Shearer at a minimum of pounds 12.5m.

Manchester United kept the pot - and Blackburn Rovers' blood - boiling regarding Shearer with Alex Ferguson again saying (in Malta, of all places) that United were still interested. Rovers responded with yet another "no way" rebuff.

The takeover money now available for players at Leeds United has been put to immediate use with the pounds 2.6m signing of the Charlton Athletic midfielder Lee Bowyer, a British record for a teenager. The new cash is also financing a pounds 2.2m bid for Nigel Martyn, the Crystal Palace goalkeeper who is wanted just as much by Everton.

Wimbledon spent nearly pounds 2m on Milwall's "uncut diamond" Ben Thatcher yesterday, but were prevented from shelling out a further pounds 1.5m for Manchester City's Steve Lomas when the midfield jewel turned down the Don's wage offer.

The fee for Thatcher, the England Under-21 defender, more than doubled Wimbledon's previous transfer record of pounds 920,000 paid to Norwich for Efan Ekoku in October 1994.

"He's an uncut diamond, but we'll turn him into a polished gem," Sam Hammam, the Wimbledon owner, said . "He'll play for the full England team - or I'll eat my hat."

The Derby County chequebook was also flapping open with pounds 1.2m being lavished onDanny Griffin, the 18-year-old St Johnstone defender/midfielder, who won his first cap for Northern Ireland against Germany at the end of last season.

Chelsea paraded their pounds 2.5m French defender Franck Leboeuf yesterday and then confirmed they are on target to buy the Italian midfielder Roberto Di Matteo from Lazio, but not for the pounds 6m which has been reported.

Manchester City are to offer Keith Curle at a cut-price pounds 650,000 in return for a quick sale of their former captain who cost pounds 2.5m from Wimbledon five years ago. Sunderland and Leeds are believed to be in interested.

Roy McFarland, dismissed by Bolton Wanderers in January, is in line for a return to management with Blackpool.