Football: Roma look to Nice for talent

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ROMA, THE Italian Serie A club, are close to taking over France's Second Division team Nice in an effort to expand the growth of young talents.

A spokesman for the Roman club, which is owned by Italian industrialist Francesco Sensi, said yesterday that negotiations with Nice had entered the final stage.

"But the formal, final agreement has not yet been reached," the spokesman said.

Club officials said the control of the French team was intended to give Roma the possibility of fishing for youngsters in France and other countries.

"Nice would be a sort of breeding ground for young players and for those players Roma can't immediately field," the spokesman explained.

Roma are currently second to Fiorentina in the Serie A standings while Nice are last in the French Second Division.

The Juventus manager, Luciano Moggi, yesterday defended as "well grounded" the decision to only stay in Istanbul for the day for tonight's politically charged Champions' League game against Galatasaray.

The Italian league champions, who need a victory against the Turkish team to keep their qualifying chances alive, decided they will travel to Istanbul today and return home immediately after the game.

Uefa, European football's governing body, which requires teams to arrive the day before European Cup matches, was critical of Juventus decision.

"Juventus feels there are well grounded motives for failing to conform to Uefa directives," said Moggi, the general director of the Turin team which is owned by the Agnelli family.

Juventus yesterday confirmed their travel plans for the match, already postponed by one week after Italy's refusal to extradite a Kurdish rebel leader prompted anti-Italian demonstrations in Turkey.

Several Juventus players, who had initially refused to travel to Istanbul, bowed to the club decision to play Galatasaray but criticised the Uefa stand.

"We have been forced to play a game conditioned by political motives," said the goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi.

The captain, Antonio Conte, said that the Italian government and Uefa had ignored the Italian team. "Uefa and the government have claimed that there are no security problems in Istanbul... but as far as we know no Uefa nor government representative will be in Istanbul today."

The former Middlesbrough favourite Juninho has denied seeking a move back to England from Atletico Madrid. The 25-year-old Brazilian midfielder was angry at being left on the bench for Saturday's win at Barcelona, but said: "I know nothing about the alleged interest of certain English teams. I expect to stay at Atletico and work at keeping my place - even if I do have a great love for Middlesbrough."

Juninho, who signed a five-year contract for Atletico last year, was hugely popular at Boro and was voted the club's player of the year.

He reluctantly left after they were relegated, moving to Spain for pounds 12m. A return to Middlesbrough would be well received on Teesside, although Spanish media reports said Aston Villa and Chelsea are also monitoring the situation.