Football: Negri wastes West Ham chance

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MARCO NEGRI may have ended his chances of joining West Ham in a move from Rangers, writes Alan Nixon. The Italian striker had a poor game against Third Division Barnet in a specially arranged private match at the club's training ground yesterday morning.

Negri was starting for the first time this season after his troubles at Rangers, but the West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, was unimpressed by his contribution. Negri was hardly in the game and his touch was rusty, to the dismay of manager and prospective team-mates.

Redknapp will now only consider taking Negri on loan as he does not want to pay the asking fee for him that Rangers want. The West Ham manager is still working on a deal for the Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe and is trying to arrange a fee with his French club, Lens. He is likely to be cheered that a move for Liverpool's right-back Rob Jones is also close, although Liverpool want more than the pounds 200,000 they have been offered.

Rangers and Arsenal are also interested in Jones, but the Hammers are the only club to have spoken to him so far and offer lucrative terms.

Redknapp has ruled out making an offer for the England midfielder Robert Lee because he refuses to pay pounds 2m for a 32-year-old. "Don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of Robert Lee," Redknapp said. "But Newcastle want money for Robert and he is 32, so it is not really on at pounds 2m."

Newcastle United are remaining tight-lipped over reports that they have made a pounds 4m bid to bring the 24-year-old Internazionale and Nigeria midfielder Taribo West to St James' Park. The club's chairman, Freddy Shepherd, and their chief executive, Freddie Fletcher, were out of the country yesterday as speculation mounted over a move.

Newcastle's manager, Ruud Gullit, who had eight years as a player in Italy with Inter's neighbours, Milan, and Sampdoria before moving to Chelsea, still has good contacts in the country and was on the verge of completing a pounds 5m deal to sign West's team-mate Ibrahim Ba before a medical revealed a problem. But the Dutchman has repeatedly maintained that his dealings on the transfer market will remain secret until the deal is done.

The Premier League has dismissed suggestions that top European Leagues were preventing the emergence of young domestic talent.

The Italian coach, Dino Zoff, urged Serie A clubs to stop the import of foreign players because it was stopping young Italian players coming through the ranks. But Premier League spokesman Mike Lee insisted that the English top flight has got the balance between foreign imports and young domestic talent right.

"You always want to attract the best and the transfer market now for top clubs is a global one they are operating in," Lee said. "Clubs always want to buy the best that is available but they must work hard to make sure the young players are very much a part of their future. Overall, we certainly think the balance in the Premier League is a fairly good one."