Football: United seal Keane deal at pounds 50,000 a week Britain's richest

SIR ALEX FERGUSON, the Manchester United manager, finally got his way yesterday when his most prized asset, Roy Keane, signed a new four-year contract. The new deal, reported to be worth pounds 50,000 a week, will make the United captain the best paid player not only at Old Trafford but in English football as a whole.

Keane had delayed an announcement about a new deal in August, sparking rumours that he would be leaving the club. But the Irishman claimed he would make a decision on his future at the end of the season. After the Champions' League defeat by Fiorentina a fortnight ago, Keane hinted that he would have positive news.

Juventus were believed to be at the head of the queue to take Keane away from Old Trafford. But United have wrapped up the deal before 1 January, when he would be allowed to sign a pre-contract agreement with any European club under the Bosman ruling.

The deal proves just how highly Sir Alex values his captain, who was a driving force in United's historic treble last season and scored the winner to seal the World Club Championship last week. Privately, Keane always maintained that he wanted to stay at United.

United's gamble in giving Keane his record contract was given a thumbs- up in the City when the club's shares shot up 4.5p to 191.5p during the day, a rise of over two per cent.

Newcastle have reacted warmly to the suggestion by Kevin Keegan that England could play their World Cup qualifier against Germany at St James' Park. The England coach believes the intimate atmosphere of the Tyneside stadium could prove to his side's advantage with Wembley under reconstruction.

"Newcastle would obviously be very interested in hosting an international game at St James' Park," the club's chief executive, Freddie Fletcher, said. "When the stadium is completed by next August it will hold more than 52,000 and be one of the finest stadiums in Europe."

Liverpool and Sunderland are competing for the signature of Bolton's stylish midfielder Claus Jensen. The Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier has made an inquiry for Jensen who would be an ideal replacement for Jamie Redknapp, who has a long-term injury. However, the Sunderland manager, Peter Reid, has also made an offer.

Nicky Weaver has promised to cut out his antics after costing Manchester City precious promotion points. The goalkeeper's eccentric behaviour has made him the new darling of Maine Road, but his mistake against Stockport on Tuesday night condemned Joe Royle's team to a third straight defeat.

The England Under-21 keeper likes to come out of his area and dribble past opponents, an ability that has paid off in the past. But the Stockport striker Alan Bailey robbed him in the build-up to County's winner.

"I've learned a lesson," Weaver said. "I won't try to take on strikers outside my box in future. I've done it before and it's worked. I got away with it. But that's the last time."

Nicolas Anelka is in trouble with the Real Madrid coach, Vicente del Bosque, after Tuesday's 3-1 victory over Rosenborg Trondheim in the Champions' League. Del Bosque is angry with the striker for the way he slowly peeled off his track suit when preparing to come on as substitute for the Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf in the dying seconds of Madrid's win.

"I wasn't happy with the way he accepted the instruction to prepare to play," said Del Bosque, who is temporarily in charge. "He needs to be sorted out, but we need to do it in a way that is in both his and the club's best interests."

Asked if Anelka remained part of Real Madrid's plans, Del Bosque shrugged his shoulders and declined to answer. The controversial Frenchman has failed to score since leaving Arsenal during the close season.

Anelka's only contribution on Tuesday was to give away a free-kick just before the final whistle. On Monday he was pelted with stones when he left training, 48 hours after Madrid's 5-1 defeat at home to Real Zaragoza.

Marseilles' Italian striker Fabrizio Ravanelli confirmed yesterday that he has signed an 18-month contract with Lazio for an undisclosed transfer fee.

French prosecutors opened an official inquiry into Marseilles for possible fraud, illegal accounting and the use of false documentation, sources at the city's prosecutor's office said.

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