Football: Evans denies `massive pay demands' by McManaman

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ROY EVANS has moved to dispel rumours that contract talks with Steve McManaman have stalled because of the Liverpool player's massive pay demands. The 26-year-old England midfielder is free to leave Anfield next summer for nothing under the Bosman ruling, and under Uefa rules can talk to prospective employers around Europe from the beginning of 1999.

Liverpool have been involved in months of complicated negotiations to keep the player at the club but claims that McManaman is asking for over pounds 50,000 a week - which would give him pounds 13m over a five-year contract - were denied by co-manager Evans as the club prepared for last night's Uefa Cup match with Valencia at Anfield.

Evans is aware that last season many of Robbie Fowler's problems with the club's fans were caused by the belief that he was holding Liverpool to ransom. Liverpool are also in talks with Fowler, who has 18 months of his current deal to run, but Evans has denied talk of massive demands as "ridiculous." Instead, he claims that deals are "getting closer and closer."

Evans evidently does not want Liverpool fans believing that the two players are holding the club to ransom with demands that will shatter the Anfield pay structure, where the top players earn between pounds 20,000 and pounds 30,000 a week.

He said: "People keep throwing in figures and we are not prepared to discuss the ins and outs of players' contracts. You guess all the figures you like but you won't get them from us and you won't get them from Steve or Robbie and certainly their requests are not as ridiculous as is being made out."

Evans added: "We are not stalling, we are making offers to their side and we are hearing their point of view. But we are making offers all the time and it is about negotiations.

"But we feel we are getting closer and closer all the time and we are very confident that we will get a result. It's not going to happen overnight."

The worrying factor for Liverpool is they have allowed themselves to be engaged in vital contract talks with one of their top players less than a year from the end of his contract. Very few top clubs around Europe would have allowed that to happen, especially not Liverpool's rivals, Manchester United, where club policy sees all promising players on long contracts. Gary and Phil Neville, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs have all been tied up on new long-term deals recently, well away from the final 12 months of their current contracts.

Tottenham's Darren Anderton is ready to pledge his future to the club following the arrival of George Graham at White Hart Lane. The 26-year- old winger believes there are rosier times ahead for the north London club under new manager Graham despite Spurs' 2-1 defeat at Leicester on Monday. "I felt better at Leicester than I have for most of the season," Anderton said yesterday. "I am delighted to have George Graham at the club."