FOOTBALL: Everton line up pounds 4.5m Bakayoko

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The Independent Online
WALTER SMITH, the Everton manager, is likely to sign Ibrahima Bakayoko in a pounds 4.5m deal next week.

Smith has persuaded the Ivory Coast international striker to go to Goodison Park, despite interest in him from Arsenal. A work permit should arrive next week, with Bakayoko then flying in from his French club, Montpellier.

Smith thinks Bakayoko, 21, can partner - or possibly replace - Duncan Ferguson in attack. A fast and skilful striker, he has been a major success in France in the past couple of seasons and should adjust to the English game.

The Bakayoko signing will take Smith's spending to an extraordinary pounds 16m since his arrival from Rangers, but the manager now hopes to clear up whether the Italian striker, Igor Protti, is also interested in coming to Goodison Park. The pounds 5.5m Lazio striker, who would join on 12 months' loan, has twice failed to arrive for talks despite all his travel arrangements being organised for him.

Another Everton transfer, which would bring the Tranmere goalkeeper, Steve Simonsen, should be completed by the end of the week. The move has been held up because of Tranmere's internal problems over the decision by their chairman, Frank Corfe, to sell up. It has also been complicated by the fact that the Birkenhead club's other goalkeeper, the Welsh international Danny Coyne, damaged his groin during the 0-0 draw at Queen's Park Rangers this week. Everton may offer their reserve keeper, Paul Gerrard, on loan to Tranmere so that the Simonsen move can be completed.

Ron Atkinson has been lined up to take over as the coach of South Africa as a replacement for Philippe Troussier, who took the country to the World Cup finals.

Atkinson has been out of work since not having his contract renewed as manager of Sheffield Wednesday at the end of last season despite keeping them in the Premiership after replacing David Pleat. He confirmed that he is due to have talks later this week with South African officials about what would be his first step into international football.

Atkinson has been linked with similar posts in the past, most notably the Wales job during his days as manager of Aston Villa in the mid 1990s. However, this time he would not have to worry about combining club and country commitments and has the experience and charisma to give South African football a shot in the arm. The South Africans were expected to make a favourable impression in France 1998 but did not win a game in failing to qualify from their group.

Atkinson said: "I have had talks with South African officials and will be meeting them later this week. Who knows if I will be the new coach? But talks have progressed to the stage where a meeting with officials would be worthwhile."

Southampton, who have made a poor start to the season, are making a record pounds 3m bid for Steve Watson, the versatile Newcastle United player. Southampton's manager, David Jones, has asked Ruud Gullit to sell him the Geordie and is willing to pay a high price in order to give his team a lift.

If Watson was sold, he would be the first major departure from Newcastle since the arrival of Gullit at St James' Park. Gullit ideally wants time to assess his squad, but Jones needs to strengthen his side quickly and is keen to talk to Watson over the weekend.

Newcastle play Southampton on Saturday, so no deal will go through before then, but a decision on Watson's future will be made shortly. Jones has money left from the sale of the striker Kevin Davies to Blackburn Rovers and would also be in a position to trade off other players to raise cash.

Watson would be an ideal addition to the Southampton squad as he can play at right-back, left-back, centre-back and in midfield. He was an England squad man before injury held disrupted his career.

Typical of Southampton's problems, their most expenive signing to date, David Hirst, a pounds 2m buy from Sheffield Wednesday, is one of the players on their injury list at the moment.

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