Football: Havelange has hunch about super Romario

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ROMARIO, Barcelona's mercurial Brazilian, will dominate the forthcoming World Cup, Joao Havelange predicted yesterday. Fifa's president said his compatriot 'is to this World Cup what Maradona was to the cup of Mexico'.

The presidential prophesy also promoted the causes of Nigeria and Norway, whom Havelange felt could follow Brazil and Argentina to the semi-finals. Nigeria's defensively suspect Super Eagles may be surprised by Havelange's backing, having never qualified for the finals before, but their new 77- year-old fan explained: 'Their centre-forward is very good.'

However good, Rashidi Yekini is likely to be eclipsed by Romario, who manages 'what no one else does because he has spectacular skills', Havelange added. 'He will be the grand star of the World Cup.'

Coca-Cola, a World Cup sponsor, yesterday focused on more parochial matters, hinting it would back a 'Best Of Britain' play-off between the League Cup winners of Scotland and England. The drinks manufacturer, which now underwrites both trophies, said that it would fund the plan if it received the two leagues' approval.

Rangers, the Scottish League Cup winners, expect to number Brian Laudrup among their many well-remunerated employees by the weekend after agreeing an undisclosed fee with his Italian club, Fiorentina. The deal is reported to involve a pounds 2.2m payment plus the playing of two friendlies.

Laudrup's agent claimed that Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur had previously made offers for the 25-year-old Danish international.

Rangers' rivals, Celtic, have freed Gary Gillespie, the former Scotland centre-half. The 33-year- old, whose 16-season career has taken him from Falkirk via Coventry and Liverpool to Parkhead, is seeking work with an English club, possibly in a player-coaching capacity. 'It is a case of sitting and waiting by the phone,' Gillespie said yesterday. 'I've read that Oldham and Tranmere Rovers are interested - and either club would suit me because I still have a house on Merseyside.'

Jon Hallworth, the Oldham goalkeeper, yesterday became the third Boundary Park player to reject a new, improved three-year contract. Mike Milligan and his fellow midfielder, Nick Henry, have already declined to sign.

Mel Sterland, the former Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Rangers full-back, has been appointed manager of the Northern Premier League club, Boston United. Sterland, 32, was forced to retire last season due to a serious knee injury.

David Kemp has been promoted to assistant manager at Crystal Palace following the departure of Steve Harrison to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Alan Smith, the Palace manager, has brought in Fulham's Ray Lewington as coach.

Swindon Town have promoted their reserve-team manager, Andy Rowland, to the position of assistant to the manager, John Gorman. Rowland, a former Swindon regular, replaces David Hay.

Salvatore Schillaci, the former Italian World Cup striker, has been suspended for two matches by the J League for insulting a referee while playing for his Japanese club, Jubilo Iwata.