Barcelona content to pass up window of opportunity

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The Independent Online

Frank Rijkaard, the Barcelona coach, believes the Spanish League leaders will not need to sign reinforcements during the January transfer window despite a string of injuries.

Frank Rijkaard, the Barcelona coach, believes the Spanish League leaders will not need to sign reinforcements during the January transfer window despite a string of injuries.

"I'm not in favour of signing just for signing's sake," Rijkaard said yesterday. "If there is a chance of incorporating a player who is capable of helping us then that will be fine, but if that doesn't happen then it won't matter."

Last month the Dutchman called for Barcelona to sign two midfielders and a forward to cover for leading players who had suffered serious injuries in the early part of the season.

The midfielders Thiago Motta and Edmilson, defender Gabri and striker Henrik Larsson are all out of action until the end of the season with knee ligament injuries. The French winger Ludovic Giuly has missed several matches because of recurring problems in a thigh muscle and the midfielder Gerard has been out with a long-running groin injury.

Despite the squad being down to the bare bones, Barça have stretched their lead at the top to 10 points over last season's champions Valencia and are 13 clear of arch-rivals Real Madrid.

"History shows that you shouldn't change a winning team and that champions usually play with 14 or 15 players, and that's what we have," he said.

Rijkaard is anxious that both players and fans should not fall into the trap of believing the team had already wrapped up the title. "We must focus on our day-to-day work and not think too far ahead because if you forget the hard work you won't win anything," he said.

In France, prosecutors have launched an investigation into alleged transfer fraud at Paris St-Germain between 1998 and 2003. The Paris prosecutor's office will look into the transfers of players like Brazilian Ronaldinho, the 2004 World Player of the Year, to determine whether agents received illegal commission payments.

The case was opened after a complaint by the French pay television station Canal Plus, which owns PSG, over Ronaldinho's arrival in 2001 and the Brazilian's departure in 2003.

Legal sources said that the prosecutor's office was also investigating the transfers of the France striker Nicolas Anelka to Manchester City in 2002 and Italy's Marco Simone to Monaco in 1999. PSG officials said they were "not concerned about a case which belongs to another era".

Prosecutors have already launched inquiries into alleged tax evasion attempts during transfers at Marseilles and alleged fraud by various agents after a complaint by the French Federation last year.

Former players and officials at the Corsican club Bastia will also go to court in March over alleged illegal payments made to nationalist organisations.

¿ The Brazilians Diego, Derlei and Pepe were relegated to training with Porto's second team pending a disciplinary inquiry after they returned late from their Christmas holidays. The three arrived back two days late. They blamed flight problems for the delay.

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