Football: Harkness set for Benfica move

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The Independent Online
STEVE HARKNESS is on his way out of Liverpool in a move to Graeme Souness's Benfica. Harkness, one of Anfield's longest-serving players, is talking to the Portuguese club about a pounds 750,000 transfer and his move could be the first of many as manager Gerard Houllier starts to reshape his Anfield squad.

Souness met with Harkness and Liverpool at the weekend and the deal will go through once Benfica prove they have the money. Liverpool want the cash up front. Harkness will sign today once Benfica collect the money from Charlton for the sale of Martin Pringle.

Harkness could join Benfica in time to help their final push for the Portuguese title and a place in the Champions' League next season. Signed from Carlisle almost a decade ago, Harkness has seen his first-team place put in jeopardy with the arrival of Rigobert Song.

Houllier wants to raise funds and make way for fresh faces. He has pounds 15m to spend at Liverpool plus money from the sales of players he does not want as he breaks up Roy Evans's squad. Harkness will be followed out by Oyvind Leonhardsen and Bjorn Tore Kvarme, goalkeeper Brad Friedel, Danny Murphy and Sean Dundee. Even David James and Phil Babb will be vulnerable if Houllier finds the right replacements in his overhaul. Karl-Heinz Riedle is leaving at the end of his contract, with Liverpool lining up Dutchman Erich Meijer on a free transfer from Bayer Leverkusen as his replacement.

The Middlesbrough manager, Bryan Robson, has confirmed an interest in the West Bromwich Albion striker Lee Hughes. Robson watched the 31-goal striker against Oxford on Saturday, but Hughes suffered a shoulder injury early in the game and faces a three-week lay-off. Robson said: "We have monitored Hughes, but we have monitored a lot of other players."

The Nottingham Forest manager, Ron Atkinson, has given up his pursuit of Aston Villa's stressed-out striker Stan Collymore. It follows Collymore's decision to reject a return to the City Ground in a cash-plus-player swap deal involving Steve Stone.

Atkinson, who also tabled a pounds 1m bid for the troubled star a few weeks ago, admitted: "I would say now that there is no chance of bringing Stan in It looks dead in the water."

Wembley will host an FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea if Gianluca Vialli's side overcome Manchester United in tomorrow's quarter- final replay. The game would be on Monday 12 April, kicking off at 7.45pm.

Chelsea could be involved in Cup-Winners' Cup action on the previous Thursday and Wembley is unavailable on Sunday 11 April due to the Wales v England Five Nations match. The semi-final will be switched to Villa Park on the Sunday (12.30pm start) if United win the replay.

Newcastle will travel to Old Trafford to face the winners of the Barnsley v Tottenham quarter-final on Sunday 11 April (kick off 2pm or 3pm).

Bid for Wembley, page 16

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