Football: Fowler rejects pounds 35,000 a week

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The Independent Online
ROBBIE FOWLER has turned down Liverpool's offer of a contract worth the equivalent of pounds 35,000 a week. His refusal to agree to the deal will alert Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers, who are both keen to sign the England international striker.

The offer to Fowler starts at around pounds 1.8m a year, making him the best- paid player at Liverpool. Fowler, who has 18 months of his present contract left, has so far refused to accept those terms.

Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, wants Fowler to stay at the club despite doubts about whether he is the ideal partner for Michael Owen. However, the Anfield board wants to know whether Fowler is willing to commit himself to Liverpool in the long term, or is planning to let his contract run out and leave for nothing.

If Fowler continues to reject the latest Liverpool offer, which appears to be final, then he could be sold before the transfer deadline in March. Arsenal are watching developments, while the Blackburn manager, Brian Kidd, is a known admirer of Fowler, despite having five top-line strikers already.

The snag for rival bidders is the cost of the deal. Liverpool would want at least pounds 10m, and the buyers would then have to satisfy Fowler's wage demands. Arsenal could meet those wages as they pay large contracts, but the Blackburn owner, Jack Walker, has a pounds 1m-a-year pay ceiling.

Houllier has said that his former co-manager, Roy Evans, would be welcome to return to Anfield if he wants to. The Frenchman, who took sole control in November after Evans' emotional departure from the club, said: "If he wants to return and have some work, be it in the scouting or recruiting of top players, then I would be very happy because I enjoyed working with Roy. A job here does not just involve the first team. There is also the Academy."

Overseeing Liverpool's youth development was one of the posts suggested to Evans before he left, but it was believed he did not want to return to the background at the club. He has not returned to Anfield to watch a game since his departure.

Houllier added: "It would be good if Roy could find another job in management and I think he can. But I mean this, I would like to see him back at this club at some stage."

Liverpool have completed the transfer of the Lillestrom defender, Frode Kippe. The fee for the 19-year-old Norwegian Under-21 international is believed to be around pounds 700,000, which could rise to pounds 2m depending on appearances.

Liverpool have also confirmed their interest in Bayer Leverkusen's Dutch striker, Erik Meijer. He is out of contract with the German side at the end of the season - but Leverkusen could be set to sell now rather than miss out on a fee under the Bosman ruling.

Alex Ferguson has denied using psychological warfare in a quest to knock Arsenal's championship challenge off the rails. The Manchester United manager has revealed he has sent a letter to the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, apologising for private remarks about Arsenal becoming public.

Ferguson said his comments that Arsenal were "scrappers" were made privately - but he stopped short of apologising for the comments themselves.

Ferguson said: "Arsene Wenger has a right to be annoyed over this matter. I have already dropped him a note explaining the situation, and I offered him the apology he deserved.

"It is not my policy to criticise other teams and the way they play. The last thing we want is to have big clubs like ours in this sort of confrontation. People go on about it all being psychological warfare, but that is far from the truth on this occasion."

Coventry City have completed the signing of the Danish goalkeeper Morten Hyldgaard - but he will not link up with the Sky Blues until next season. The 6ft 5in Hyldgaard has completed his initial pounds 200,000 transfer, a fee which could eventually double depending on the number of first-team appearances he makes. The 20-year-old will complete the season with his Danish club, Ikast, before reporting to Highfield Road in July.

Leeds United are set to sign the left-sided midfielder Willem Korsten from the Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem until the end of the season.

Ipswich Town have paid pounds 200,000 to another Dutch club, De Graafschap, for the 28-year-old wing back, Fabian Wilnis.

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