Football: Derby reinforced by Kinkladze loan spell

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GEORGI KINKLADZE, the former Manchester City midfielder whose abundant skills once illuminated Maine Road, yesterday moved from Ajax to Derby County, where he will remain on loan for the rest of the season.

The Georgian international, who will start training with Jim Smith's team today, may make permanent the move from the Dutch club, who signed him from Manchester City 18 months ago.

An Ajax spokesman confirmed: "Ajax and Derby County have agreed on the loan of Georgi Kinkladze to the Premiership club for the remainder of the 1999-2000 season with the intention of agreeing a deal for the sale of the player at the end of the campaign.

"Although Kinkladze is still awaiting a work permit, Ajax have given the go-ahead for him to train with Derby County."

The signing is a coup for Smith, whose team have made such a disappointing start to the season. The manager said: "I think Georgi is the type of player the Derby public would enjoy."

Kinkladze, 26, will miss Saturday's game at Liverpool but he could make his Pride Park debut at home to Manchester United on 20 November. Derby have already applied for a work permit for the player.

Despite acquiring both Seth Johnson and Lee Morris since the end of last season, Smith still has money to spend and Kinkladze was not among the two unnamed players Smith made unsuccessful bids for last week. The former Dynamo Tbilisi playmaker made a huge impact at Manchester City, even though they were relegated twice during his three years at the Maine Road club.

Kinkladze, who moved to England for pounds 2m four years ago, left when the Maine Road club were relegated to the Second Division in May 1998. He cost Ajax around pounds 5m but has struggled to establish himself in Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, the Rams are waiting for the results of a scan on Morris's left foot. The striker broke it earlier this year - delaying his move from Sheffield United - and it swelled up after he appeared as a second- half substitute against Chelsea at the weekend.

Martin O'Neill's hopes of signing the Sheffield Wednesday striker Andy Booth this week are beginning to fade. The Leicester manager has been in negotiations with the Yorkshire club for a week, with the main block apparently being how the Foxes will pay the pounds 2.75m fee which has already been agreed. Wednesday are believed to want the entire sum up front given that they were pounds 9m in debt when the last financial accounts were released.

Leicester, however, are understood to favour paying in instalments for the 25-year-old, who will break the club record should the two clubs resolve their differences.

Alan Sykes, the Wednesday secretary, refused to divulge the nature of the problems but said: "It's looking less certain that the deal will go through. There are some further talks to be held but there's a possibility that Andy will remain a Sheffield Wednesday player."

Such a situation would undoubtedly suit Booth, whose agent, Gary Dickinson, said last week that his player was not happy about leaving Hillsborough. Dickinson said: "We're still hopeful it will go through this week. It has become very frustrating because Andy, who doesn't want to go, has been left in a kind of limbo."

Booth withdrew from Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Filbert Street, a result which leaves Danny Wilson's side rooted to the foot of the Premiership and six points adrift of safety.

Dickinson added: "He was certainly in no fit state to play on Saturday, although he was moved by the reception from the Leicester fans."