Football: Guivarc'h joins the French foreign legion

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FRANCE CONTINUED to yield up its talent to the world yesterday as Newcastle and Blackburn moved to secure the services of two of the World Cup host nation's footballing luminaries. Arsenal, too, are lining up a raid across the Channel.

The first player to travel to England this summer is expected to be Stephane Guivarc'h. The 27-year-old Auxerre striker, who played in France's opening World Cup game against South Africa last night, has agreed to join Newcastle for pounds 3.5m.

He could be swiftly followed by countryman Sebastien Perez, the subject of a pounds 2.5m offer from Blackburn Rovers. The Bastia defender has been over to Lancashire to visit Ewood Park and is understood to be keen to sign. Blackburn have already spent pounds 7.25m for the Southampton striker Kevin Davies and signed the Newcastle defender Darren Peacock on a free transfer, plus pounds 500,000 on Gillingham's Jim Corbett.

Arsenal will pursue their interest in Thierry Henry, Monaco's French international right-winger, once the host nation's participation in France 98 is over. But there is likely to be a snag to the deal which could involve the Double winners losing Nicolas Anelka to Barcelona.

When the Spanish champions bought the Brazilian striker Sonny Anderson from Monaco for pounds 4m last year, they also took out an option to purchase Henry, a 20-year-old Parisian.

According to L'Equipe , Barcelona have informed Monaco that they will allow Henry to join Arsene Wenger's French colony at Highbury. However, the newspaper claims that they will waive their claim on the player only if Arsenal let them have Anelka, who did not make the national squad.

Southampton dipped into the fee they received for Davies yesterday to take Stuart Ripley from Blackburn for pounds 1.5m. The 30-year-old had been linked with a return to Middlesbrough, but the Saints manager, Dave Jones, has emerged as the favourite to sign the winger.

The summer managerial carrousel turned yesterday, with Bruce Rioch expected to step back on at Norwich. The former Bolton and Arsenal manager is poised to take over from Mike Walker, who parted company with the Carrow Road club at the end of April.

Terry Venables was confronted with a new twist in the Selhurst Park saga last night when Ray Lewington left Crystal Palace to join Brentford. Lewington, due to be Venables' No 2, is poised to take over at Brentford and follow his former chairman, Rob Noades.

The Leicester manager, Martin O'Neill, has postponed talks over his future at Filbert Street for another 48 hours. Sir Rodney Walker, the chairman of City's Plc, flew to Paris yesterday intending to O'Neill but the former Northern Ireland international is unable to meet Sir Rodney until tomorrow because of his BBC World Cup commitments. O' Neill is concerned about the control he will have over footballing matters after the formation of a five-man football committee at the club last month. He also wants assurances over the amount of money that will be made available to him to strengthen his squad for next season.

Brighton were finally given the go-ahead yesterday to return to the seaside town for next season. Final permission was given by the local council, allowing the club to start construction work on Withdean Athletics Stadium and turning it into a 6,000 all-seater arena.

Diego Maradona was given a two-year suspended sentence yesterday for firing an air rifle towards four journalists outside his country home in 1994. Maradona was found guilty of assault with a weapon.