Football: Spurs sign Berti but leave Hinchcliffe in limbo

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The Independent Online
It was another typical day in the topsy-turvy world of Tottenham Hotspur. Glenn Moore reports on a win some, lose some day spiced with drama and controversy.

Nicola Berti, the Italian midfielder, has joined Spurs on a free transfer from Internazionale, but Andy Hinchcliffe, the England left-back, failed to finalise his pounds 3m move from Everton because of an ankle injury.

Meanwhile, in casualty, Andy Sinton, Ruel Fox and David Howells should be fit to face Manchester United tomorrow, but David Ginola and Ian Walker are classed as "more than doubtful".

The facts do not reveal the drama behind them. First Berti. It transpires Jurgen Klinsmann, a friend and former team-mate, was intermediary after Berti called, to say that he, too, would rather try and save Spurs (and his World Cup chances) than sit on the bench in Serie A. Klinsmann told Christian Gross, the Spurs coach who, in the light of injuries to Darren Anderton, Allan Nielsen et al, decided Berti was worth signing.

But, when he faced the media at 2pm in the press Portakabin at Tottenham's training ground, he had no news. Berti, who missed three months with a knee injury last year, was still having a medical that began at 10am. Then an official squeezed through the throng and passed Gross a note. He held it aloft like Neville Chamberlain and announced: "Berti has signed".

Smiles all round, but not at Everton. Spurs, according to Gross, did not sign Hinchcliffe because of an Achilles injury which was only revealed by his agent and brother-in-law when he arrived for the medical. "He wants to sign and I want to buy him," Gross said. "I have a good feeling for him as a player and a person. We will try and do the deal when he is fit in a few weeks."

Not so, said Everton. Goodison Park insiders claimed another senior Spurs official said the problem was Hinchcliffe's old cruciate ligament injury and the delay was likely to be months rather than weeks. There is a suspicion on Merseyside that this is a ruse to bring the fee down and, as far as Everton are concerned, the deal is now off and other suitors are invited.

Marseilles have thwarted Fabrizio Ravanelli's hopes of a return to Italy, in turn scuppering plans of a move for the Sheffield Wednesday duo Benito Carbone and Patrick Blondeau.

Milan, looking for cover for injured Liberian international George Weah, were hoping to sign the former Middlesbrough striker, but Marseilles, who signed Ravanelli for a French record pounds 5m in the summer, have revealed they are not happy with Milan's proposed offer. Rolland Courbis, the Marseilles coach, said: "Milan made an offer, but it was not precise enough for us, so Ravanelli is staying."

The impasse means that Marseilles are now unlikely to chase Carbone and Blondeau, who have been unable to hold down regular places in the Owls' starting line-up since Ron Atkinson's return.

Tommy Johnson's proposed loan move from Celtic to Crystal Palace could break down on a technicality. The striker has held talks with Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, and is ready to complete a temporary move.

The two clubs initially agreed a six-week loan period, but Coppell has been told Fifa rules prevent it. The world governing body stipulates a three-month minimum on cross-border loan deals and this has caused a potential problem as the additional period would leave Johnson at Selhurst Park beyond the late March transfer deadline.

One player who is going to Selhurst is Carl Leaburn, who has signed for Wimbledon. The Dons are paying pounds 150,000 for the Charlton striker immediately and will add an extra pounds 100,000 after 50 first-team appearances.

Birmingham have signed left-back Simon Charlton from Southampton for pounds 200,000. The former Huddersfield defender has been on loan at St Andrew's for a month, but has now signed a two and a half year contract.

Burnley have signed striker Andy Payton in a pounds 1m swap deal with Huddersfield. Payton is returning to the town he was born in, with Paul Barnes going to Yorkshire in a straight swap.

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