Football: Lucescu to be Inter coach

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INTERNAZIONALE YESTERDAY signed Mircea Lucescu to coach their star-studded but volatile team to the end of the Serie A season in May.

The Romanian's appointment, on a reported one billion lire (pounds 344,700) contract, was announced at the Milan club's training camp the day after the dismissal of Gigi Simoni. The veteran Italian coach was fired despite consecutive wins which kept the club in the running for the European Cup and Serie A.

The Internazionale president, Massimo Moratti, had bitterly criticised the quality of play following a 3-1 victory against Real Madrid in the Champions' League game last Wednesday and an injury-time 2-1 win against Salernitana in a league match last Sunday.

"I'm convinced I did the right thing," Moratti said yesterday. "I think I have interpreted the feeling of our fans, who were unhappy with the team's play."

Inter sold 60,000 season tickets this season after winning the Uefa Cup and finishing second to Juventus in the Italian league last campaign.

Inter, whose playing staff includes Ronaldo, Youri Djorkaeff, Roberto Baggio, Diego Simeone and Ivan Zamorano, are seventh in the league, five points behind the leaders, Fiorentina, with a record of five wins, two draws and four defeats.

Lucescu is a former coach of the Romanian national team, both Rapid and Dynamo Bucharest and the Italian clubs Brescia and Reggiana.

After yesterday's first training session with the Inter players, he said: "I will need time to change the team... to switch to zonal defence and make the play more offensive."

Simoni, whose stay with Internazionale was a stormy one, said yesterday he was the victim of "an unfair, unexpected decision".

Some Italian newspapers suggested that Simoni paid for the bad start to the season by Internazionale's Brazilian forward Ronaldo, who has been repeatedly sidelined with tendinitis in the knee and has failed to repeat his goalscoring feats of the previous season. Simoni was also criticised for his defensive tactics.

Lucescu, 53, could be keeping the Internazionale bench warm for Marcello Lippi, the Italian coach who may leave Juventus at the end of the season and join Inter for the 1998-99 campaign.

However, Moratti denied a decision for next season had already been taken. "Lucescu can prove he deserves to coach a great team," Inter's president said. "He could be a more lasting solution."

A Singapore soccer referee was jailed for eight months for accepting bribes to fix a match two years ago, it was reported yesterday.

Ramasamy Rajandran, 45, of the Football Association of Singapore, which oversees the domestic soccer league, was sentenced on Monday in a district court for fixing an August 1996 match between Police Football Club and Sembawang Rangers, The Straits Times said.

Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau received a tip and arrested him on three charges of corruption. Ramasamy was also fined 10,250 Singapore dollars (pounds 3,850).