Football: Laudrup eager to leave Chelsea

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CHELSEA SAID last night they would not let Brian Laudrup leave the club in the immediate future, but the Dane said he was determined to turn his back on his lucrative contract and return to Denmark.

The 29-year-old attacking midfielder-cum-striker, who is homesick after 10 years spent playing abroad and keen to return to his homeland, had been reported to be set to join FC Copenhagen. He admitted yesterday that it may have been a mistake to sign a three-year contract with the Blues this summer as he had started longing for a return to Denmark more than a year ago when he was still with Rangers.

Laudrup would not put a time-scale on his departure but it now seems certain that a transfer involving a fee of between pounds 1m and pounds 2m will be concluded with a Danish club - probably FC Copenhagen - in the next few weeks.

Although he insists that he is prepared to play for Chelsea again in the meantime, it is unlikely that Laudrup will ever play for the club again, especially not in the Cup Winners' Cup second-round second-leg tie against Copenhagen next week.

While Chelsea have reluctantly agreed to let him go, they will insist on a clause in his ensuing contract that ensures that he cannot play anywhere else in the world without their agreement or substantial compensation. The club even offered him the chance to move back to Denmark with his family, train in his native country for part of the week and return to England in time for final preparations for matches.

Another player not going anywhere yesterday was Dion Dublin, who said "no" to a pounds 6.75m move to Blackburn Rovers - and in the process opening the door to Aston Villa and Newcastle.

As John Gregory's title-chasing Villa emerged as the favourites to secure Dublin's signature, Rovers were setting up a pounds 4m deal for Bolton's Nathan Blake, which should go through today.

A source close to Dublin said last night that he did not want to move to Blackburn despite being offered a lucrative contract and said: "Dion wants to chase medals immediately."

Dublin's decision has surprised Coventry, who were counting on getting Blackburn's money and may now have to accept lesser bids from Villa or Newcastle. The striker was ordered to train alone yesterday and for the rest of the dispute by his manager, Gordon Strachan. He will not be available for the Arsenal game tomorrow.

The saga should reach a conclusion next week when Villa and Newcastle hope to have permission to speak to Dublin and make their offers of personal terms.

The value of maturity, page 30