Football: Robson has sights set on Baggio

BRYAN ROBSON has lodged an ambitious bid to bring Dino Baggio to Middlesbrough for next season.

The Middlesbrough manager flew to watch Baggio in action for Parma in their devastating 6-0 victory over Bordeaux in the Uefa Cup on Tuesday and has spoken with his agent about a move. The midfielder, experienced but only 27, has indicated an interest in coming to England for a couple of years. Baggio, who has been linked with English clubs before, will be offered a huge salary. Although he is nearing his sell-by date in the Italian market, Parma will want around pounds 6m for him.

Robson is already setting up a deal for Norwich City's Republic of Ireland forward, Keith O'Neill, and harbours hopes of bringing the Brazilian midfielder Juninho back from Atletico Madrid. Baggio, however, would give Boro the extra dimension they have lacked as they slip down the table.

Another striker, Paul Dalglish, could yet pass O'Neill on the reverse trip from the North-east, as Newcastle United have received a firm bid for him from Norwich, who have had an approach to sign the 22-year-old Scot on loan turned down.

Dalglish, who is rated at pounds 1m by his club, faces competition at St James' Park from Duncan Ferguson, the on-loan Louis Saha, and the Georgian, Temur Ketsbaia.

The former Celtic trainee was signed from Liverpool in November 1997 by his father, Kenny, on a free transfer. He was loaned out to Bury and had to wait until September for his debut, as a substitute, for the Magpies.

Manchester City hope to sign Alex Mathie from Dundee United. The striker has had a miserable time in Scotland since his pounds 700,000 move from Ipswich Town earlier this season.

John Harkes, who has been playing for Nottingham Forest, will return to the United States this week and join New England Revolution.

Liverpool suffered an embarrassing 2-1 defeat last night in a friendly against the French Fourth Division club, Boulogne. Although Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen were not involved, the Anfield side still fielded eight full internationals at the start of the match, in which they opened the scoring through Patrik Berger.

John Rudge, sacked as manager of Port Vale in January after 19 years' service, will have his claim for compensation for the remaining 18 months of his contract heard by a Football League tribunal, following the club's refusal to make him an offer within the statutory 28-day period.

Rudge's case is being handled by the League Managers' Association, whose chief executive, John Barnwell, said: "It's disappointing that it has come to this. It's unnecessary and doesn't do the game's image any good. But it's Vale's prerogative to take it to a hearing."

The League introduced the concept of the three-man arbitration panel, whose decision is binding on both parties, at the start of the season. Despite numerous dismissals in the interim, Port Vale are the first club to be called before it.

Phil Don, the Premier League Referees' Officer, has blamed media attention for a sense of increasing pressure on the men in the middle.

Match officials have hit the headlines in recent weeks after criticism from players and managers. The ever-increasing profile of the domestic game and the prizes at stake have inevitably heaped responsibility on officials, but Don believes the intense scrutiny has made matters worse.

"The media increases the pressure," Don said. "Referees will go out there and do their job. Players and managers can only judge a referee's performance subjectively.

"Fifa directives have made the referee's job easier. They have mandatory instructions which they have no choice but to apply. The trouble comes because players aren't adjusting their game."

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