Football: Player's life ban lifted on appeal

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RONNY WALLWORK, the Manchester United defender, will be allowed to restart his career after a Belgian judge ruled that a life ban imposed on himmust be lifted. The centre-half attacked the referee after a game while he was on loan at Antwerp and he was given the tough sentence last month.

United won a legal victory yesterday when a Brussels court ruled that Wallwork should be able to play again, subject to an appeal from the Belgian Football Association on 17 September.

Wallwork can even join the Champions' League squad, as United's defence that his right to work had been stopped was upheld. However, the debate is far from over. The Belgian FA will still push for a long ban, perhaps three or four years, because the offence is rated the most serious in their game.

Massimo Taibi, United's latest signing, faces a baptism of fire when he makes his debut in goal at Liverpool a week today.

Sir Alex Ferguson unveiled Taibi at lunchtime yesterday and revealed the 6ft 3in Italian will play at Anfield. "I have no problems about that," said the United manager. "He played in the Milan derbies when he was with AC Milan and in the games against Juventus, so he'll be able to handle that pressure."

The Sicilian, who has joined United from the Serie A club Venezia for a fee believed to be in the region of pounds 4.5m, said: "I'm delighted to come to Manchester United, which is the biggest club in the world. I'm very happy to have come to English football and I think there will be very little difference to playing in the Italian League."

Taibi will compete for a place in the United goal with Mark Bosnich and Raimond van der Gouw. Ferguson said: "This is something new for us. Over the past few years it's just been a choice of one for most of the time when Peter Schmeichel was here. Now we have three keepers and that should breed healthy competition."

Roy Keane wants a pounds 12m three-year contract from his next club as the bidding hots up for the Manchester United captain. The Irishman is seeking a deal of around pounds 80,000 a week, terms that are now being discussed by Juventus, Internazionale and Lazio even though Keane's advisors are not officially allowed to speak to a foreign club until 1 January.

Real Madrid claimed last night that they had tried to join the negotiations, but had been informed that Juventus already had an agreement with Keane. United deny such a deal exists.