Football: United on the brink of pounds 50m shirt deal

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The Independent Online
Manchester United are on the verge of agreeing a pounds 50m shirt sponsorship deal with the car company, Ford. The contract is likely to be for the next five years.

The agreement should be finalised by the end of the month. The sponsorship will be the biggest in British football: the current deal with Sharp was worth around pounds 7m in its last year, the new one is close to a 50 per cent increase at pounds 10m per season. This is in addition to a six-year pounds 60m deal with Umbro to wear their shirts.

United's transfer target Marcelo Salas is set to sign for Lazio this week for pounds 13m. The Chilean striker will earn pounds 2m per season over four years in Italy's Serie A after Lazio came up with the fee that his club, River Plate, wanted.

The former United striker, Dion Dublin, has been the subject of "two substantial offers", according to his present club, Coventry City. The Sky Blues chairman, Bryan Richardson, declined to name the interested clubs - but one of them is believed to be Middlesbrough.

Brian Deane is being linked with a pounds 1m move to Benfica. The Sheffield United striker is the latest target for the Portuguese club's coach, Graeme Souness, who failed with a bid for Arsenal's Ian Wright. The Blades, meanwhile, are about to sign the 30-year-old Greek international sweeper Mihalis Vlahos from AEK Athens.

Patrick Blondeau has left Sheffield Wednesday and returned to France, joining Bordeaux for pounds 1.2m.

Queen's Park Rangers have signed Antti Heinola, a 24-year-old Finnish international right-back, from the Dutch club Heracles for pounds 100,000.

Manchester City are likely to beat Liverpool in the chase for the Georgian international captain, Kakhaber Tskhadadze, a 29-year-old defender who plays for Russia's Alania Vladikavkaz.

Chic Bates is considering his position as the manager of Stoke City after an embarrassing run of results, including last weekend's 7-0 thrashing by Birmingham City.

Andy Gray, the former England midfielder, wants to leave Bury on a free transfer after a row with the Gigg Lane club.

The German forward Andreas Thom has left Celtic and returned home to Hertha Berlin for pounds 100,000.

Dragoje Lekovic, Kilmarnock's Yugoslavian goalkeeper, is set to join the Spanish side Sporting Gijon.