Football: Everton capture Abel Xavier

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The Independent Online
THE EVERTON manager, Walter Smith, yesterday strengthened his squad with the pounds 1.5m signing of the Portuguese international Abel Xavier from the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.

The 26-year-old right wing-back, who was born in Mozambique and has won 10 caps, has signed a three-year contract. He said: "It has always been in my mind to play in England. I think the crowds and the atmosphere when you're playing at the top level is a situation you want to be in. I know Everton is a big, traditional club and I promise I'm going to do my best."

Smith said: "He came highly recommended and I think he'll settle into English football without any problems. He's an aggressive type of player who likes to go and win the ball."

Ade Akinbiyi is set to leave Bristol City in a pounds 3m deal. Birmingham City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham have led the chase to sign the 24-year- old and the Ashton Gate vice-chairman, John Leycock, said that at least one pounds 500,000 increase on a previous offer had been made.

Akinbiyi's agent, Andrew Mill, insists a deal is close. "I seriously think something will happen within 24 hours," he said. "As I understand it, all three interested clubs have tabled new bids, which is great for Ade."

Leycock was not as certain about a rapid conclusion but admitted: "Clubs are coming close to our valuation, although I wanted to stick out for as close to pounds 4m as possible."

The Birmingham and Fulham bids seem certain to involve players plus cash, while Wolves are in a position to offer cash only after the pounds 6m sale of Robbie Keane.

Gillingham are entitled to 40 per cent of any fee above the pounds 1.2m they sold Akinbiyi to Bristol City for last summer under a clause in that deal.

Huddersfield Town yesterday sold their striker Wayne Allison to Tranmere Rovers for pounds 300,000.

Southampton's England Under-21 striker James Beattie has made a successful comeback in a reserve team game following four weeks out with three broken ribs and a punctured lung suffered in a freak accident at home, when he slipped over while wearing flip-flops. The midfielders Chris Marsden and David Hughes also returned after injury.

The Saints' manager, David Jones, said: "It's a big boost to get Beattie back in action again. It's too early to say whether he's going to be match fit for the Middlesbrough game [next Saturday] but we've got a bit of time to get him right."

The former Crystal Palace striker Michele Padovano is set to make his debut for the French club Metz in a friendly away to Verona today - nearly a year after signing for the club. The former Juventus striker seriously damaged ligaments last October and has only played reserve-team football since.

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