Football: Inter hopes fade over Ronaldo

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The prospects of Internazionale getting their hands on Barcelona's Ronaldo are slim. The club's president, Massimo Moratti, yesterday confirmed he had made an offer for the striker, but was awaiting developments "with fatalism".

Moratti, who is reported to have offered Barcelona a pounds 40m deal for the 20-year-old Brazilian, said. "If you want my impressions, I don't think that Ronaldo will choose Inter."

Also keeping Inter waiting is Paul Ince, who Moratti described as being in a "state of deep uncertainty" over his future. "Paul knows that by staying he would be giving me an exceptional present," Moratti said of the England midfielder.

Roy Hodgson's Swiss connections have led Blackburn Rovers to offer Inter pounds 3m for Ciriaco Sforza. Rovers, who have already made a pounds 4.2m bid for his fellow-countryman and Borussia Dortmund striker Stephane Chapuisat, made their move just hours before Sforza, a midfielder, played for Inter against Schalke in last night's Uefa Cup final second leg.

The Premiership club are confident that Hodgson, who leaves Milan to manage Blackburn next month, can persuade the 27-year-old Sforza to follow him to Ewood Park. Hodgson has been Sforza's mentor since the Englishman was in charge of the Swiss national side.

Shay Given, tired of being Tim Flowers' goalkeeping understudy, has turned down a new contract at Rovers paving the way for his expected move to Newcastle United. Given's impending arrival should nudge the transfer- listed keeper Pavel Srnicek even further towards West Ham who, however, will need to increase their pounds 500,000 offer. Bruno N'Gotty will not be playing in the black and white stripes next season, the defender having extended his contract at Paris St-Germain.

Bolton Wanderers have extricated Neil Cox from the mire at relegated Middlesbrough for pounds 1.5m. The full-back, irked at being left out of the FA Cup final, has been critical of his Boro team-mates, and has made personal attacks on Fabrizio Ravanelli. Not surprisingly, Cox, whose contract expires next month, rapidly agreed to join the Premiership newcomers.

Bolton were just as enthusiastic. "I acted very, very quickly. He has a wealth of experience for someone who is only 25," their manager, Colin Todd, said.

Kevin Kilbane, the Preston North End winger, will become the first pounds 1m signing in West Bromwich Albion's history today. The fee exceeds Albion's 18-year-old transfer record of pounds 750,000, paid to Manchester City for another winger, Peter Barnes. The midfielder Julian Darby has left Albion for Preston in a separate deal worth pounds 150,000.

The Dutch goalkeeper Edwin Zoetebier may become Sunderland's first signing as a First Division club. The 27-year-old will decide on a pounds 1m move from Volendam in the next fortnight.

Grimsby Town and Walsall saw their managers depart yesterday, but in differing circumstances. Kenny Swain was dismissed by the Mariners in the wake of the their relegation to the Second Division, while Chris Nicholl resigned at Bescot Stadium, despite efforts to make him sign a new contract.

The former Grimsby manager Alan Buckley, who was sacked by West Bromwich in January, may return for a second spell at Blundell Park while the Walsall player-coach, Kevin Wilson, has emerged as the favourite to replace Nicholl.

Shrewsbury Town have entrusted Jake King, their former captain, with the task of revitalising the club after their drop into the Third Division. The 42-year-old Scot, who takes over from the sacked Fred Davies, had been the manager of non-League Telford since November.

Garry Nelson, the Torquay United player-coach and author of the widely acclaimed Left Foot Forward, an account of his life as a journeyman player, has retired from football and quit his job at Plainmoor. Nelson is taking up a senior post with the Professional Footballers' Association, the players' union.

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