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Football: Litmanen ready to leave Ajax

THE FINNISH international midfielder Jari Litmanen is to leave Ajax at the end of the season, the Amsterdam club announced yesterday. He has not yet decided where he will play next season.

The announcement is sure to spark a flurry of inquiries from teams interested in signing Litmanen. His name has previously been linked with a move to Liverpool, but a move to Barcelona, where the former Ajax coach Louis van Gaal is in charge, seems more likely.

Litmanen has played seven seasons at Ajax and is their all-time top scorer in European club competitions. He overtook Johan Cruyff last September when a Champions' League penalty against Porto took his tally to 24 goals.

The Euro 2000 organisers have given the Amsterdam Arena two weeks to free up all its seats for sale or lose the right to host matches during next year's Championship.

The Arena, home to Ajax, can hold up to 51,000, but 6,000 debenture holders do not want to give up their rights during the three-week tournament co- hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands.

"We've spoken with the board of the Arena to let them know [about the deadline]. The loss of these seats would deprive the general public of 30,000 tickets," a Euro 2000 spokesman said yesterday.