Football: Charlton link up with Italian giants Inter

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The Independent Online
RONALDO AT the Valley? Don't laugh. Charlton Athletic's chances of returning to the Premiership may be improved by a link-up with Internazionale. Charlton's managing director, Peter Varney, has signed a three-year deal with Inter which he believes will benefit both clubs.

"It is an agreement on two levels," Varney said. "Firstly, there is no reserve-team football in Italy so it will be invaluable for Inter to send players to us who have recovered from injury and need regular football. On the other level, there will be a player exchange at youth academy level which would mean, for example, that players signed on a five-year scholarship at Charlton could spend time at Inter, learning and being coached at the highest level."

Charlton are following in the footsteps of Manchester United and Arsenal, who have similar arrangements in place with Antwerp and St Etienne respectively. Crystal Palace's attempted arrangement with Juventus was submerged by their financial problems.

Inter's managing director, Massimo Moratti, said: "It's been our objective to reach an agreement of this nature with an English club for a long time."

With loan deals ruled out, players will have to be officially transferred between clubs, but if Ronaldo, say, needed match play after a long-term injury, a short-term transfer could be negotiated.

"I believe Inter chose Charlton for two main reasons," the manager, Alan Curbishley, said. "They wanted their players to be at a club in the capital city, and they have been impressed with our ambition."

Southampton, another club with ambitions, at least ambitions of a new home, are to sell The Dell to Barratt Homes for pounds 5m and pay pounds 4.3m for a disused gasworks which they plan to turn into a 32,000-seat stadium.

The Premiership club's stadium sale will need approval by shareholders in Southampton Leisure, the stock market listed company which owns the football club.

The total cost of buying and converting the gasworks site, in the St Mary's district of Southampton, will be pounds 30m. The club will fund the move through bank loans, grants and a new share issue intended to raise pounds 3m. The site will include banqueting facilities for 900 people, 40 corporate hospitality boxes and office space.

Ian Wright has pledged his short-term future to Nottingham Forest. The West Ham striker has agreed to stay with David Platt's First Division side for another month.

Wright is nearing the end of his first month at the City Ground and has scored twice in four appearances for Forest. The 35-year-old former England star, who plans to retire at the end of the season, is way down the pecking order at West Ham - although the London club will be able to recall him at 24 hours notice in the second month of his loan.

The Portsmouth, manager Alan Ball, has signed a new four-year contract after the club's promising start to their First Division campaign. Ball said he was "delighted" with the progress the club have made since the new chairman, Milan Mandaric, took over in the summer. "These are certainly exciting times at Pompey and with the plans for the club off the field as well as the backing I have had in strengthening the team, I know we have a firm base from which to realise our ambitions," Ball said

The Blackburn midfielder Garry Flitcroft has had further surgery on the knee injury which has kept him out of action for nearly a year. The Rovers chief executive, John Williams, said of the 26-year-old: "Garry will be out for a further three months as he builds himself up to full fitness."

The Bolton captain, Mark Fish, will captain South Africa for the first time in Saturday's Afro-Asian Cup final against Saudi Arabia in Cape Town. The central defender, who has 52 caps, takes over from Lucas Radebe who misses the first leg to remain in Leeds and face Middlesbrough on Sunday.

Mark Draper, the midfielder who is out of favour at Aston Villa, has turned down the chance to join Villa's First Division neighbours Wolves on loan.

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