Football: Villa pay pounds 2.3m for Saunders

DEAN SAUNDERS finally became an Aston Villa player yesterday after the club agreed a record fee of pounds 2.3m to prise the Welsh striker from Liverpool.

Protracted negotiations were brought to an end by a compromise. Liverpool originally demanded pounds 2.5m while Villa's chairman Doug Ellis refused to go beyond pounds 2.1m. Saunders said: 'I'm glad it's all over. As soon as I heard Ron Atkinson was keen to sign me I wanted to join Villa.

'But I have mixed feelings about leaving Liverpool after only one full season. I thought I did quite well, scoring 23 goals in 50-odd games and also winning an FA Cup medal.'

Atkinson, who has now broken Villa's transfer record on three occasions over the last 14 months, said: 'I will be delighted if he produces the same form for Villa.

'I tried to get him within two days of the completion of last season and I am very pleased now to have acquired one of the top three strikers in Britain. He will do a great job for Villa. I've already told him he will have the No 9 shirt and that is now his position in the side.' Atkinson has now spent pounds 4m-plus on Liverpool players alone in a total transfer turnover of about pounds 21m.

Ellis said: 'We have put together a good package and after discussing the deal for 10 days I've saved Villa over pounds 200,000.

'Obviously, we have had to give a little and Liverpool, who have been most honourable throughout the whole deal, have done likewise.'

Saunders, who was a British record signing at pounds 2.9m before Alan Shearer went to Blackburn Rovers, has taken a cut in wages from his pounds 8,000 a week at Anfield.

The Wales manager, Terry Yorath, hinted that Liverpool had never got the best out of the pacy striker. 'It's no good buying somebody and then telling them they're crap,' Yorath said. 'You have to know your product.

'At Liverpool Dean has been going into areas where he can't score goals. He's at his best when he's running on the ball and getting to the byline.'

Napoli have put a dollars 12m ( pounds 6m) price tag on Diego Maradona after lifting their objection to the former Argentinian captain playing for Seville this season. He is expected to sign today.

Two Crystal Palace players, their experienced defender Andy Thorn and the young forward Dean Gordon, are scheduled for cartilage operations in the next few days and both could be out for four weeks. They will bring the number of Palace players undergoing surgery in the month since the season started to eight.

Nigel Jemson's move back to Nottingham Forest from Sheffield Wednesday has been put on ice until after the weekend as the clubs meet at the City Ground tomorrow. Steve McMahon has been ruled out of Manchester City's team for a month after an operation on trapped nerves in his toes.

Taylor's lack of focus,

Non-League Notebook, page 33

----------------------------------------------------------------- THE VILLA REVOLUTION ----------------------------------------------------------------- Ron Atkinson's transfer dealings since becoming manager in June 1991 INS Dean Saunders (from Liverpool) pounds 2.3m Earl Barrett (Oldham) pounds 1.7m Dalian Atkinson (R Sociedad) pounds 1.6m Steve Staunton (Liverpool) pounds 1.1m Ray Houghton (Liverpool) pounds 900,000 Garry Parker (Nottm Forest) pounds 650,000 Kevin Richardson (R Sociedad) pounds 450,000 Shaun Teale (Bournemouth) pounds 350,000 Paul Mortimer (Charlton) pounds 350,000 Dariusz Kubicki (Legia Warsaw) pounds 200,000 Mathias Breitkreutz and Stefan Beinlich (B Borsig, Ger) pounds 225,000 Trevor Berry (Bournemouth) pounds 50,000 Ugochuko Ehiogu (WBA) pounds 50,000 David Farrell (Redditch) pounds 45,000 Neil Davies (Redditch) pounds 20,000 TOTAL pounds 9.99m OUTS David Platt (to Bari) pounds 5.5m Tony Cascarino (Celtic) pounds 1.1m Ian Olney (Oldham) pounds 700,000 Gary Penrice (QPR) pounds 625,000 Paul Mortimer (C Palace) pounds 450,000 Ian Ormondroyd (Derby) pounds 350,000 Andy Comyn (Derby) pounds 300,000 Lee Butler (Barnsley) pounds 200,000 Stuart Gray (Southampton) pounds 200,000 Gordon Cowans (Blackburn) pounds 200,000 Derek Mountfield (Wolves) pounds 150,000 Kevin Gage (Sheff Utd) pounds 150,000 Gareth Williams (Barnsley) pounds 150,000 Chris Price (Blackburn) pounds 125,000 Kent Nielsen (Aarhus, Den) pounds 110,000 TOTAL pounds 10.31m -----------------------------------------------------------------

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