Football: Ferguson no friend to Foe

MANCHESTER UNITED'S manager, Alex Ferguson, has pulled out of the race for the Cameroon international Marc-Vivien Foe, leaving the way open for the midfielder to move to West Ham.

Ferguson revealed last night that he will not try to sign Foe from the French side, Lens, this season, even if it means losing out on him to the Hammers, who are hoping to do a quick deal.

Foe was at Old Trafford in August for a medical, but was not judged fully fit after a leg break that also ruled him out of the World Cup finals.

Ferguson has watched him since, but because Lens used Foe in the Champions' League - briefly, as a substitute in the last game - there is little point in United buying him immediately, as he is cup-tied.

The United manager denied last night that the club's plc board had blocked move for Foe, and said: "We felt that due to his injury we should look at him over the season. We were prepared to wait, but if he goes elsewhere we wish him well.

"Now he has got an opportunity to move, I think he will do well, he's a very good player. We will stand back from that one."

Foe's British representative has been in discussions with West Ham's manager Harry Redknapp for the past four days and a fee should be agreed shortly. West Ham may have to pay up to pounds 4m for Foe, and if he signs it could lead to the sale of Eyal Berkovic. The Israeli playmaker is wanted by Newcastle United.

The Blackburn Rovers manager Brian Kidd has made a new pounds 2.5m offer for Crewe's promising youngster, Seth Johnson, but the struggling First Division club have turned down an instalment package and the option of a player swap because they want a lump sum to build a new stand.

Blackburn's latest bid is pounds 1.5m up front and the rest in appearances, but Crewe need pounds 2m now to renovate their main stand at Gresty Road. Kidd hopes a compromise figure can be reached to tie up Johnson, who can play in midfield or at left-back.

Crystal Palace's Italian international Attilio Lombardo flew to Rome last night in the hope of completing a move to Lazio. The First Division club confirmed that their midfielder and former caretaker manager was talking with the Serie A side.

Lombardo, who has 18 Italian caps, played 24 times for the Eagles as they slipped out of the Premiership last season and has been a regular this term as they have tried to bounce back. The 33-year-old now looks likely to follow manager Terry Venables and striker Matt Jansen out of Selhurst Park.

Palace are reported to owe Lombardo bonus money and have agreed to release him immediately from his contract.

The Palace chairman and owner Mark Goldberg is facing mounting financial problems and is looking to cut his expenses further, after Venables stepped aside as team manager and pounds 4.1m Jansen moved to Blackburn. Goldberg said: "Attilio has served Crystal Palace well. Obviously we are very sorry he is leaving but it is the same situation as with Matt Jansen. If we are not going to be in the Premiership next year then it is very difficult to keep him at the club."

A First Division side hoping to keep hold of one of their most talented players are Wolverhampton Wanderers, who yesterday said their Irish striker Robbie Keane was "priceless" and was not for sale.

Wolves' manager, Colin Lee, laughed off stories that the likes of Middlesbrough and Arsenal were preparing pounds 5m bids for the 18-year-old, who is Molineux's leading scorer this season with 14 goals.

"Talk of pounds 5m is a joke," said Lee. "That wouldn't even buy one of his arms and it's his legs which are supposed to be valuable. The stories are rubbish. Bryan Robson is supposed to have spoken to me about him yesterday but I haven't spoken to Robson for ages. In fact, no-one has ever phoned me about Robbie Keane, or made an offer."

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