Football: Magpies set for boost with Ba

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THE FRENCH winger, Ibrahim Ba, is ready to leave Milan and bring some new year cheer to Newcastle United. The 25-year-old international has confirmed that he has spoken to the Magpies' manager, Ruud Gullit, and admits that he would relish the chance to replace Keith Gillespie, who was sold to Blackburn on Tuesday, at St James' Park.

Ba, who has featured in seven of his Italian Serie A club's 13 games so far this season, said: "I know that Milan have already spoken to the English officials. I had a meeting with Gullit, and I would be prepared to leave in January." He has been rated at pounds 4.5m by his club, but Newcastle are confident of securing his signature for around pounds 3.5m.

Hard-up Portsmouth are transferring their striker John Aloisi to Coventry City for a bargain pounds 650,000. The Australian forward, the scorer of 17 goals this season, had talks with the Sky Blues' manager, Gordon Strachan, last night and will complete the formalities today.

The Fratton Park club will receive only around pounds 450,000 while Aloisi's former club, Cremonese in Italy, will receive the pounds 200,000 they are still owed by Pompey when they signed him 18 months ago.

Pompey are losing pounds 40,000 a week and their chairman, Martin Gregory, has placed all their players on the transfer list in a bid to ease a crippling wage bill in excess of pounds 3m a year.

Liverpool are set to sign the 33-year-old German defender Thomas Helmer. The Bayern Munich man is believed to have been offered a six-month contract, with the option of a further year. Two defenders, Olexandr Holovko of Dynamo Kiev and Salernitana's Rigobert Song, and the Monaco goalkeeper Tony Silva had trials at Liverpool's training ground yesterday.

The Blackburn Rovers manager, Brian Kidd, will today make a final pounds 4.5m bid for Ashley Ward before switching his transfer sights to Matt Jansen, who would be available at a similar price from Crystal Palace.

Nottingham Forest are pursuing SV Salzburg's Austrian international midfielder, Martin Amerhauser. The 24-year-old will be out of the contract at the end of the season.

Charlton Athletic are giving a trial to the San Jose Clash striker Eric Wynalda. The 29-year-old, who has played in Germany, is an experienced United States international.

Wolves have placed their defender Dean Richards on the transfer list at his own request. Derby County have taken the Finnish international striker Jonatan Johansson on a three-day trial from Rangers.