Football: Lazio call off pursuit of Anelka

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The Independent Online
THE SAGA of Nicolas Anelka's transfer to Lazio seems to have been running as long as a soap opera romance so perhaps it was no surprise when, in announcing that they were giving up trying to persuade Arsenal of the attractions of their offer, the Italians said: "Obviously, there's someone else."

It seems Lazio's offer of pounds 20m for a striker Arsenal acquired from Paris St-Germain two years ago for only pounds 500,000 was just not big enough.

The Roman club's president, Sergio Cragnotti, insists they have been forced to pull out of the deal because Arsenal are "stubborn".

"All dialogue has broken off," he said. "We did everything we could to conclude the deal, but we couldn't get anywhere. We're sorry, and perhaps even sorrier is the player who had made plain his intention to come to Rome. We made our offer, we adjusted it higher, coming very close to what was requested.

"If Arsenal are this stubborn, they must have got other offers. Obviously, there's someone else."

Arsene Wenger appeared surprised to hear what Cragnotti had told the Italian press. "All I can tell you is that talks are going on," he said after watching his team win a friendly match at Notts County. "I'm as fed up about this as anyone else because I didn't want to lose him but we've been forced to sell."

Real Madrid were early suitors but their approaches, after contact with Anelka's brothers who act as his agents, were swiftly rebuffed, partly because it looked to Arsenal like an arranged marriage. Juventus are believed to have made a counter bid for the French striker but the player insists he will join only Lazio. Anelka told the Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport: "I continue to say I want to go to Lazio. I'm not going to Juventus. It's Lazio or nothing - and nothing means not Arsenal and not Juventus."

Aston Villa have improved their offer for George Boateng to pounds 5m, the value Coventry first put on their Dutch former Under-21 midfielder. But now Coventry want more.

Mexico's Raul Lara and Paulo Cesar Chavez, who failed dope tests during the Copa America in Paraguay, have been banned for six months by the South American Football Confederation, who ignored a threat from Mexico to boycott this month's Confederations' Cup in their own country if the players were suspended.