Football: Chelsea close in on Zola signing

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The Independent Online
The death last month of their vice-chairman, Matthew Harding, has not, it seems, curtailed Chelsea's spending power. The Stamford Bridge club are close to agreeing a deal to bring Gianfranco Zola, Parma's Italian international attacking midfielder, to London.

According to sources at the Serie A club, a fee of pounds 5m has been agreed for the 30-year-old Zola, who can expect to earn about pounds 25,000 per week as part of a four-year contract at Stamford Bridge. However, Chelsea's chief scout, Gwyn Williams, said last night: "Nothing has been finalised yet, and the sort of money we're talking is way off pounds 5m."

Williams admitted that Chelsea's managing director, Colin Hutchinson, flew to Italy yesterday to pursue the deal, which has been agreed between the two clubs although Zola has signed nothing as yet.

Zola has fallen out with Parma's new coach, Carlo Ancelotti, who said last night: "If he has been able to get a good deal, that's good for us. We're both happy." Ruud Gullit's squad at Stamford Bridge already boasts two other Italian internationals: Gianluca Vialli and Roberto di Matteo.

The Liverpool striker Stan Collymore is in line for a pounds 20,000 fine - the maximum penalty of two weeks' wages for breach of contract - after refusing to turn out for the Anfield club's reserve team at Tranmere on Wednesday. That could be doubled if the pounds 8.5m striker carries on his one-man strike tomorrow, when Liverpool's second string are due to meet Sheffield Wednesday.

Collymore's extreme action was explained last night by a friend who said: "Stan played in a closed-door match against Aston Villa and didn't think he needed another game. He was shocked that Roy Evans told him to play in the reserves on Wednesday. He thinks he has worked extra hard in training.

"Stan told Roy it wasn't fair and that Robbie Fowler got straight back in the team when he was fit and it should be the same for him. I don't know if Stan will play in the reserves on Saturday. In the mood he's in, it is probably unlikely."

Collymore reported for training at Liverpool yesterday and had talks with his agent, Paul Stretford, last night about his future. Aston Villa are reportedly keen on the England striker.

The Leeds manager, George Graham, has denied reports of a training ground row with his striker Ian Rush, who has failed to score since joining Leeds on a free transfer from Liverpool in the summer.

Niall Quinn, Sunderland's record signing, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with damaged knee ligaments. The pounds 1.3m signing from Manchester City needs an operation after sustaining the injury against Coventry seven weeks ago.

The former Manchester United and England defender Paul Parker has joined Sheffield United on a month's contract. The 32-year-old has just concluded a two-month spell at Derby County.

Rangers have been linked with the 23-year-old Hamburg striker, Karsten Baron.

Chelsea boardroom battle, People and Business, page 24