Football: Keegan asks for the best of Gazza

DESPERATE TIMES breed desperate measures, and in the wake of two disappointing results, Kevin Keegan has re-opened the international door to arguably the only player capable of adding a touch of magic to the England team.

"The onus is on Paul Gascoigne to force me to put him in." Keegan said. "I'm hoping, the same as others, that this summer Gazza will do enough to make himself available for England next season."

Keegan said it was going to be tough to find such a creative force: "I am not being unkind to the midfield players I have got. We have some good young players. But they do not have those sort of strengths."

It has been argued in some quarters that, with the influx of post-Bosman foreigners, the chance of unearthing a new Gazza is remote, and Chelsea's first pre-season signing yesterday provided further evidence.

Mario Malchiot, a 22-year-old defender or defensive midfielder, will join Gianluca Vialli's side from Ajax next month on a three-year contract. The Dutch Under-21 international is out of contract.

Brian Laudrup, whose registration Chelsea still hold, could make a decision on his future within the next week - with his agent hinting that a return to Rangers is a realistic prospect.

The Ibrox side have voiced their willingness to re-sign the talented Dane, but are reluctant to meet Chelsea's pounds 2m valuation. The player's agent said Laudrup was unlikely to join Sporting Lisbon after talks last week.

Roy Hodgson must wait to see if he will be the next Australian coach. The former Blackburn Rovers manager had further talks with Soccer Australia officials after Australia beat his Fifa World XI 3-2 in Sydney on Saturday, but the governing body's chairman Basil Scarsella has indicated no announcement is likely until later in the year.

Trevor Francis, the Birmingham City manager, is willing to break the St Andrew's club's transfer record in his chase for the Bristol City striker Ade Akinbiyi after having a pounds 2m offer turned down. Meanwhile, Bolton Wanderers are resigned to losing Per Frandsen and Mark Fish. The pair have been linked with moves in recent weeks; Denmark's Frandsen has been linked with Sheffield Wednesday while Fish, once of Lazio, has been lined up for a move back to Serie A.

The Football League has voted to revert to goal difference rather than goals scored to separate teams next season. The League has also voted to introduce players' names and squad numbers on shirts and will be also able to use three out of five substitutes next season.

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