Football: Hasselbaink joins the gold rush

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The Independent Online
JIMMY FLOYD HASSELBAINK yesterday fended off withdrawal symptoms for transfer intrigue junkies now that Nicolas Anelka's move to Lazio is apparently off by demanding a transfer from Leeds United.

The Dutch striker, who arrived at Elland Road as a virtual unknown when signed by George Graham for pounds 2m two years ago, quickly established himself as a force in the Premiership with 22 goals in his first season and 20 in the next. His success attracted the attention of Atletico Madrid, who have had a pounds 10m offer for him refused. Now Hasselbaink has refused a new contract offer - his pay demands have stunned Leeds - and yesterday morning told the club he wants to leave.

The Leeds manager, David O'Leary, said the club's board will now decide on his future. "Jimmy has handed in a transfer request this morning and the board are considering it. What he is looking for I don't think any club in the country could afford and I don't think there is anyone on that kind of money over here [in England]. What happens next is up to the board."

He added that Leeds had already offered the Dutchman "the biggest contract in the club's history".

Atletico's president, Jesus Gil, offered the Dutch striker pounds 40,000 per week in his attempt to prise him away from Elland Road, and he intends to continue his pursuit. "We have made a good offer and we will carry on chasing him until we make the signing, even if it upsets Leeds," Gil said.

Arsenal are preparing to make a pounds 6m offer to Blackburn for Matt Jansen, their England Under-21 striker. He is one of two new forwards Arsenal's manager, Arsene Wenger, wants to add to his squad if and when Anelka finally leaves Highbury.

Wenger has already made a discreet approach to find out about his availability and whether he would move to London. Arsenal tried to sign Jansen last season when he left Crystal Palace and went to Blackburn.

Wenger thinks Jansen could play in a similar role to Dennis Bergkamp and could figure prominently in Europe in the game's where Bergkamp's absence, as a non-flying Dutchman, leaves Arsenal short up front.

Blackburn's manager, Brian Kidd, would rather keep Jansen to help his side's pursuit of promotion back to the Premiership but the pressure on Rovers looks certain to grow with Manchester United also interested

Kidd has made a pounds 2.6m offer for Robbie Blake, the Bradford City striker, and will have plenty of options if he signs him.

Wenger said yesterday that Anelka would not be allowed to leave Highbury unless Arsenal were offered their "minimum price" for him. Frustrated by his compatriot's attitude, which has disrupted Arsenal's planning for the new season, said: "There are only two solutions left for him. We will sell him or he will not play at all."

Lazio finally pulled out of the messy and protracted deal, saying that Arsenal's asking price of pounds 22m for the 20-year-old Frenchman was far too high, but Wenger says the player is worth nearer pounds 30m.

"We have already lowered our price so much, but there is a minimum figure we will not fall below," he said. "We already know that many other clubs are interested in him, and eventually one of them will pay the price that we can accept. But if we just take something to get rid of him then it means contracts have no value. Nicolas is contracted to us for four more years, and time is on our side because he must know that it is no good for a player of 20 to just be idle.

"I accept now that he is not coming back, but we cannot just surrender. So far I think we have defended our position well and we will continue to do so - but other people have to take responsibility for the position Nicolas is in now."

Paul Ince completed his pounds 1m move to Middlesbrough yesterday and the 31- year-old midfielder, who was frozen out by Liverpool's manager, Gerard Houllier, trained with his new team-mates for the first time.

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