Football: Juninho 'will cost Villa pounds 12m'

REPORTS THAT Atletico Madrid are willing to sell Juninho to Aston Villa for pounds 12m were denied by the player's agent, Gianni Paladini, last night.

"Atletico Madrid paid pounds 11m for him, and he is still only 25 years of age," Paladini said, whose comments none the less implied that a deal could be struck if Villa were prepared to offer a larger amount.

John Gregory, the Villa manager, is scheduled to meet the player and his advisors when Atletico take on Chelsea tonight in the Netherlands. Juninho is said to have been unhappy at Atletico since last season's coach, Raddy Antic, was replaced by the former Italian national coach, Arrigo Sacchi. Paladini hardly played down the rumours, saying: "He is very happy, wages-wise, at Madrid."

Despite talk of a pounds 12m bid from Villa, any interest on their part is still in the preliminary stages, with Gregory yet to establish whether Juninho wants to return to England. One reason the player gave for leaving Middlesbrough was because his chances of selection for the Brazilian national team were diminished.

A high-profile signing of Juninho's calibre could help Gregory to convince Dwight Yorke of Villa's ambition and persuade him to stay at the club.

Gregory yesterday complained of his frustration at United's failure to resolve the Yorke saga. "I don't think United have conducted matters well," he said. "They've dragged things out and Dwight must be wondering if they really want him.

"There's been only one formal offer from United for Dwight Yorke. But in any case I would rather have Dwight stay than the money."

However, Gregory may find that United are about to increase their interest in Yorke after Patrick Kluivert yesterday turned down a move to Old Trafford, preferring instead to stay with Milan.

United, who had agreed a pounds 9m fee for Kluivert with the Italian club, had hoped a deal would be done in time for Sunday's Charity Shield match against Arsenal. However, the player stalled over the move, apparently preferring to sign for a London club if he was to swap Serie A for the Premiership.

No move for Gillespie, page 24