Football: Leeds snap up pounds 4m Huckerby

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The Independent Online
LEEDS UNITED'S search for a new striker goes on despite yesterday's pounds 4m signing of the Coventry City striker Darren Huckerby. Leeds have moved swiftly to fill the void left by the rancorous departure of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink - and the Elland Road chairman, Peter Ridsdale, has promised the club's fans that his manager, David O'Leary, has the freedom to move into the transfer market again if he wishes.

"We will have to wait and see whether Darren fits into our squad, but we are obviously adding to it with a quality striker who has proved himself against us and top opposition in the past," Ridsdale said. "But just because we have signed Darren, it does not stop our quest for bringing in a strong centre-forward. The money is still there for David to do that."

O'Leary has moved swiftly to use some of the pounds 12m Hasselbaink fee after the Dutchman's switch to Atletico Madrid last week. But Huckerby, whose cost will rise to pounds 5.5m in performance-related increments, is not seen as a direct replacement for the Dutch international. He is instead a long- term target who has at last been added to O'Leary's squad.

The capture of the 23-year-old former England Under-21 and B international takes O'Leary's spending to just over pounds 19m this summer, with more funds in the bank. Ridsdale added: "I am clearly delighted with this signing, because Darren is someone we have been tracking for some time." Coventry signed Huckerby from Newcastle United for just pounds 1m in November 1996.

The Brazilian midfielder Rivaldo has ruled out a move to Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said yesterday that he would love to have Rivaldo at Old Trafford - but that no contact had been made about signing the Barcelona player.

Rivaldo said yesterday that he was happy at the Spanish club and did not want to leave. "I'm flattered with Manchester's offer, but I don't think I can accept," he said. "Manchester is a great team, but I'm happy at Barca. I would only leave Barcelona if I had personal problems here."

Roy Keane has not made his mind up over United's final contract offer, according to his solicitor and adviser, Michael Kennedy, who insists Keane will make his decision by the end of the week as promised. The Republic of Ireland midfielder's present deal expires next summer, and he has already rejected one offer from the club, which was reportedly worth pounds 28,000 a week.

Edgar Davids, the Juventus playmaker, is one player on United's list as a possible replacement for Keane. However, Ferguson has discovered that the Dutch international could not play for his side in the Champions' League this season, even if a transfer is rushed through.

Davids has already figured in the Intertoto Cup for Juventus this summer, and thus cannot play in Europe for another club. Now Ferguson is looking round Europe for an alternative, but those who come within United's wage structure are thin on the ground. He has until 31 August to make signings for his side's group games. He is also actively looking for a centre-half.

The Liverpool defender Bjorn Tore Kvarme is having a trial with the French club St-Etienne. The Norwegian international, who is out of the plans of the Anfield manager, Gerard Houllier, played in a friendly against Internazionale on Tuesday. The 27-year-old is one of several first-team squad players that Liverpool are looking to offload following Houllier's pounds 25m summer spending spree. If Kvarme impresses the French side, then a pounds 750,000 move could end the former Rosenborg Trondheim player's unhappy stay at Anfield.

Liverpool would also consider offers for the American goalkeeper Brad Friedel and the Republic of Ireland defender Phil Babb. The arrival of Sami Hyypia and Stephane Henchoz at Anfield in recent months has further limited opportunities for both Babb, who is a target for Crewe Alexandra, and Kvarme.

Bridges hits hat-trick for Leeds, page 26

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