Football: Zola considers early retirement

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The Independent Online
GIANFRANCO ZOLA may retire at the end of next season, he announced yesterday.

"Next season might be my last as a player," Chelsea's Italian striker said. "We will see because from now on I have to consider my condition and my strength. Unfortunately it is getting harder and harder. At the end of next season I am going to make a decision because it is very important to give my best and if I can't give something to the team, then it might be the right moment to give up."

Zola's manager at Stamford Bridge, Gianluca Vialli, is ready to make a surprise pounds 3.5m bid for the Sheffield United prospect Curtis Woodhouse.

Woodhouse has been recommended to Vialli and is widely considered to be one of the best young English talents around. The midfielder, who has been likened to Paul Ince, will be sold by cash-strapped United in the next few weeks with a handful of leading clubs on his trail.

Rangers are thought to be keen, while Sunderland's Peter Reid has made an offer for both Woodhouse and winger Lee Morris. United want a combined pounds 5m for both players.

David Ginola did the double yesterday when he was named Footballer of the Year. The award by the Football Writers' Association comes less than a fortnight after Tottenham's Frenchman was voted Player of the Year by the Professional Footballers' Association.

Ginola beat the Manchester United pair Dwight Yorke and David Beckham into second and third place respectively.

This is the fifth year running that the award - voted for by the football press - has gone to a foreign player. Ginola follows Eric Cantona (1995), Jurgen Klinsmann (1996), Zola (1997) and Dennis Bergkamp last year. He also follows in the footsteps of Arsenal rival Bergkamp by winning the PFA and FWA trophies in the same season.

Bill Kenwright has turned to other banks to try to fund his pounds 50m Everton takeover. The theatre impresario was knocked back when HSBC, who own the Midland Bank, announced that they were not going to back what is intended to be the biggest takeover in Premiership history.

Now Everton face a summer of turmoil with the likes of Olivier Dacourt, Marco Materazzi, Slaven Bilic, Gareth Farrelly, Danny Williamson, Terry Phelan and Paul Gerrard being sold to slash a large wage bill and huge overdraft.

The club's vice-chairman has been trying to put together a consortium since November to buy out Peter Johnson, the former chairman who owns 68 per cent of the club. But a source close to Kenwright confirmed that he is in discussions with two other financial groups and is confident they will not follow HSBC's actions.

Bayern Munich's French left-back Bixente Lizarazu has almost recovered from a serious knee injury and could play in the European Cup final against Manchester United on 26 May in Barcelona.

"He should resume training in the next few days," a Bayern spokesman said yesterday. "His goal is to be fit for the final. It looks good." Lizarazu has been out since tearing his left cruciate knee ligament in March.

All 90,000 tickets for the final, in Barcelona on 26 May, have been sold, Uefa said yesterday. The clubs were allocated 30,000 tickets each with a further 9,000 on public sale in Barcelona. The remaining 21,000 were divided up between football associations, commercial partners and Uefa.

Next Wednesday's Uefa Cup final between Parma and Marseilles in Moscow's 77,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium is expected to sell out on the night although 36,000 tickets remain unsold.

Nightmare in Carlisle, page 30