Only Blackburn Rovers have so far been given permission to talk to Dublin by Coventry because they have offered a package worth pounds 6.75m, and Richardson last night insisted that things would remain that way. "We have a closed bid with Blackburn and no-one else can come in," he said.
Both the Newcastle manager, Ruud Gullit, and his Villa counterpart, John Gregory, however, are interested in signing Dublin, but their clubs have only offered pounds 5m.
Gregory confirmed that he would be making a formal bid to Coventry to rival Blackburn's offer. "Yes, we have contacted Coventry City with an inquiry about Dion Dublin and we will be formally faxing our bid," he said. "We are now awaiting permission to speak to the player and hopefully persuade him to join us."
Last night, Coventry were refusing to let either Villa or Newcastle talk to Dublin, much to the annoyance of the 29-year-old, who wants to know the terms on offer from all three clubs. The striker is adamant that the pounds 5m clause should be honoured, as it could mean a bigger pay day for him at St James' or Villa Park. Blackburn have already made him a lucrative offer, one that would see him become their joint best-paid player, but it still means a pay cut.
Rovers officials were furious and embarrassed to find out that they had overbid. Their original offer of pounds 5.5m was rejected before they increased it. The Rovers owner, Jack Walker, has also considered lowering his bid, but decided instead to stick to the offer as Blackburn are officially the only club allowed to talk to Dublin.
Dublin, however, will not be panicked into joining Rovers and wants to hear what Newcastle and Villa have to say. Both will better Blackburn's wages and have arguably a better chance of success, although neither are likely to want to have to pay more than pounds 5m for a player who has that figure stipulated as his worth in writing. Villa's surprise late move may even make them favourites, as he would not have to go to the trouble of moving house.
Blackburn yesterday said they would keep Chris Sutton at Ewood Park even if they do sign Dion Dublin from Coventry, and said they remain 'optimistic' about finalising their deal for Dublin. The club's chief executive, John Williams, said: "Our move for Dion Dublin is about strengthening the squad, not about replacing one player for another. Chris Sutton is not for sale."
Williams revealed that Rovers had already met Dublin's representatives, and he added: "We had a very positive meeting and made an offer which we believe was well received. Roy Hodgson had a conversation with Dion about football matters and, likewise, Roy felt that to be extremely positive."
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