Football: Salas `turned down' by English clubs

MARCELO SALAS, Chile's Wembley hero, could have come to England for half the pounds 12m being paid by Lazio, it emerged yesterday.

Long before Manchester United expressed an interest in him, the agent Tony Henry was in negotiations to bring Salas to England. "Blackburn had their chance for months," he said. "Salas wanted to come to England and would have gone to Blackburn immediately. The price at the time was pounds 5m and Salas was looking for pounds 400,000 a year, which is only average Premier League money."

Henry said he alerted Tottenham and Everton when Blackburn pulled out, but met with little interest.

Salas's international team-mate Javier Margas is a target for Sheffield Wednesday. The club's manager, Ron Atkinson, has made a pounds 1.8m bid for the experienced centre-half, who plays for Universidad Catolica.

Middlesbrough have signed the Colombian international striker Hamilton Ricard for pounds 2m from Deportivo Cali, subject to a work permit, on a four- and-a-half year contract.

The new Scottish Premiership was finally given the seal of approval yesterday at Hampden Park. The 30 lower division clubs took less than an hour to allow the top 10 to leave the Scottish League at the end of this season. With each of the top 10 having four votes, against the two for First Division clubs and one for each Second and Third Division clubs, there was little doubt about the outcome - and the vote reflected that, with 58 votes for and 20 against the breakaway.

Crystal Palace's interest in signing the Aston Villa midfielder Sasa Curcic has been held up by the Serb's recent nose operation. Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, is waiting for Curcic to return to training before making a firm offer.

Birmingham City are on the verge of persuading their captain Steve Bruce to spend the rest of his playing career at St Andrew's. The 37-year-old defender is out of contract in the summer and negotiations over a new 12-month deal are now in progress.

Southampton have made a pounds 1.5m bid to sign the striker Alun Armstrong from Stockport County.

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