Football: Keane set on Bosman move

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The Independent Online
ROY KEANE is determined to stay at Manchester United until the end of the season and then leave the club for nothing on a Bosman transfer.

The Republic of Ireland international will give his answer to United's latest and "final" wage offer, understood to be pounds 30,000 a week, after considering his future over the weekend.

Keane's adviser Michael Kennedy said yesterday: "Roy is still considering United's offer. When he has reached a decision we will announce it." The answer is almost certain to be "no."

As United are unlikely to increase their wage offer to pounds 40,000 per week (the estimated amount that Keane is asking for) the player is understood to be planning to honour his current deal and then leave.

Reports that United are offering pounds 40,000 per week and that Keane has rejected the offer are believed to be emanating from Old Trafford sources seeking to cast the club captain in the same mould as Nicolas Anelka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Sources close to Keane insist that no such offer has been made.

Keane is out of contract next summer and would be free to speak to foreign clubs and sign a pre-contract agreement with a new side from 1 January.

United's chief executive, Martin Edwards, is now likely to be put under pressure by the club's plc board to sell Keane before the end of the month. The transfer deadline for eligibility for Europe's club competitions is 31 August and potential buyers - possibly Internazionale or Juventus of Serie A in Italy - would want to have completed a deal by then.

Keane would be worth an estimated pounds 10m before the end of this month and very little afterwards. Few other companies would accept losing pounds 10m on a single asset in such a short space of time. On Wednesday night, as United beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-0, the Old Trafford crowd chanted: "Keano is worth more than Edwards," and "Give him the money." After the match, Sir Alex Ferguson, United's manager, looked depressed and withdrawn.

"I've had some chats with Roy and he's certainly undecided about the future," Sir Alex said. Asked what he thought of the fans' chants, Sir Alex added: "The fans are just saying what we all want to say. We hope he stays. For me, Roy as a captain is a real Manchester United player. He embodies the club perfectly."

Sir Alex would be more than happy if Keane stayed for a final season. If the player left, the United manager would then have the problem of finding a suitable replacement in time for the Champions' League.

The situation is likely to get ever more tense. If no agreement on a new contract can be reached, then the plc will want to force a sale. Keane can refuse to go, and would have the support of the fans and probably his manager in doing so. He would then, in all probability, sign for another club in January, but not move until next June. Only an increased pay offer is likely to stop such a development.

United, meanwhile, are signing the South African midfielder Quinton Fortune in a controversial deal. Fortune has agreed a contract and a pounds 2m fee has been settled with his Spanish club, Atletico Madrid. He flies in today for a medical.

Fortune's application for a work permit, however, will be closely watched as he appears to fall short of the two major criteria. He is not a regular current international after a disappointing season in Spain; and it is highly unlikely that he will be among the top earners at Old Trafford, the second main government criteria. Fortune was prevented from signing for Tottenham as a teenager after a work permit was refused.