Football: Chelsea's Ekstrom

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CHELSEA last night paid IFK Gothenburg pounds 800,000 for Johnny Ekstrom, the Swedish striker who helped to oust England from the European Championship, writes Joe Lovejoy.

Ian Porterfield, the Chelsea manager, turned his attention to the strongly built 27-year-old after losing out to Manchester United in his pounds 1m pursuit of Cambridge United's Dion Dublin.

Ekstrom made two substitute appearances for the hosts in the European finals, the most notable at the end of the first phase, when his half-time introduction facilitated the fightback which saw Sweden retrieve a deficit to beat England 2-1.

The move to Chelsea, in time for the launch of the Premier League, will be his fourth venture abroad, after spells in Italy (Empoli), Germany (Bayern Munich), and France (Cannes). Direct and mobile, he is seen at Stamford Bridge as a high quality replacement for Kerry Dixon, who joined Southampton during the close season for pounds 575,000.

Geoff Thomas, Crystal Palace's England midfield player, had talks with Blackburn Rovers yesterday. Palace turned down Arsenal's offer of pounds 2.5m for Thomas a fortnight ago, but Blackburn can be expected to match Palace's valuation if the former Crewe player agrees to the move.

Barry Horne, the Welsh international midfielder, will cost Everton pounds 675,000, a Football League transfer tribunal ruled in London yesterday.

Kevin Keegan, the Newcastle United manager, has approached Liverpool, his former club, to ask about the availability of the Welsh international striker, Dean Saunders. Everton, also seeking a new forward, have made an enquiry about Borussia Monchengladbach's Martin Dahlin, one of Ekstrom's Swedish international colleagues.

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