Football: Valencia eye Juninho

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The Independent Online
The Spanish club Valencia are prepared to spend pounds 7m on Middlesbrough's Brazilian maestro Juninho. The club's technical director, Jesus Martinez, was at Wembley yesterday to watch Juninho in the Coca-Cola Cup final.

The Valencia coach, Jorge Valdano, is keen to pair him with the Argentinian Arial Ortega in midfield. Ortega cost pounds 8.3m when he signed from River Plate last month and there is more money for Juninho.

Ronny Rosenthal, the Tottenham striker, is in talks with Marseilles about joining them on a free transfer in the summer.

Wimbledon will meet Aston Villa in midweek without the Nigerian international Efan Ekoku, who may also miss next weekend's FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

Ekoku is on World Cup duty with Nigeria, which has left Kinnear frustrated as he prepares for the most important game of the season. He said: "It will be a blow if we don't get him back because he's got blistering pace, but the Nigeria situation we don't know about. We are waiting to see. "

Sepp Blatter, the general secretary of world football's governing body, Fifa, called yesterday for full-time professional referees to be introduced.

In an interview on German television, he also said Germany was the early leader in the race to stage the 2006 World Cup finals, for which England is a candidate. "It is down as No 1. But when it comes down to deciding the venue, it is the Fifa executive board who decide. All countries have a right to make a bid."

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