Football: Overmars over here as Wenger lands Dutch winger

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The Independent Online
Arsene Wenger rolled his shopping trolley in to Highbury yesterday and tipped out pounds 8.75m worth of goodies - with the promise of more to come before the season starts.

The Arsenal manager's rummaging among the shelves of football's continental hyper-market procured the Dutch winger Marc Overmars and the Portuguese striker Luis Boa Morte, whose name translates as "good death", or possibly good night if you happen to be 33-year-old Ian Wright.

Overmars, the 24-year-old international with three Dutch championships and a European Cup winner's medal already in his bootbag, cost pounds 7m at the Ajax checkout, while the 19-year-old Boa Morte a pounds 1.75m bargain from Sporting Lisbon.

Wenger, who signed the French defenders Emmanuel Petit and Gilles Grimandi earlier this month, has now spent more than pounds 14m but shows no signs of putting away the debit card. Indeed, the Gunners' shop will have to start stocking a shirt bearing the name Alberto Mendez-Rodriguez - a 22-year- old midfielder from the German non-League side FC Feucht.

"It's not all over yet," Wenger said. "I might still bring in one, or a maximum two, players before the start of the season. I need to bring in younger players. We have the best players in the country in the 28 to 35 age group, but between 20 and 28 they are all at Manchester United, Newcastle or Liverpool."

Overmars' decision to leave a "beautiful club" for a five-year contract at Highbury was influenced by Dennis Bergkamp. "I have heard only good things about Arsenal from Dennis," he said. "I like what I have seen of the Premiership. I can see there might be a little more freedom to use my speed."

Now fully recovered from a cruciate ligament injury sustained in December 1995, Overmars added: "There are no problems anymore. I just had to be very strong. It takes time, but you must not be afraid."

The 36-year-old Peter Beardsley has been offered the chance to extend his first-team career at Bolton Wanderers. Beardsley met the Bolton manager, Colin Todd, yesterday after a fee of around pounds 250,000 had been agreed with Newcastle United.

Tomas Brolin has been ordered to report back at Leeds United by Friday after a pounds 2m move to Parma, following a lengthy loan spell, fell through. The 27-year-old Swede, who cost Leeds a club-record pounds 4.5m from Parma in 1995, has a year to run on his contract.

Brighton supporters who have been checking out the hostelries around Gillingham, have been wasting their time. Next season's pre-match pints now look like being quaffed in south-east London, following the sudden decision to groundshare with Millwall. The New Den is seen as being better placed than the Priestfield Stadium, with journey times for supporters halved.

Only last week, Brighton told the Football League that the Gillingham link-up was going ahead in order to ensure the club's status for the League's annual meeting. Brighton, who will still have to pay Gillingham pounds 300,000, have until Friday to find a pounds 500,000 bond to guarantee their future as a League club.

The Southampton midfielder Robbie Slater scored his first goal for Australia as Terry Venables' side beat the Solomon Islands 6-2 in Sydney to win their World Cup qualifying group and earn a play-off for the Oceania title against either New Zealand or Fiji.

The Scottish League will open on Saturday 2 August with only three matches in the Premier Division. Sky Sports muscled in to claim Hibernian's home match against Celtic as their Sunday match, with Rangers against Hearts filling the Monday night TV slot.

Scottish Premier Division fixtures, page 31