Saints in fight to sign Parma striker Mboma

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The Independent Football

The Premiership's bottom club, Southampton, are facing a struggle in their attempt to sign Parma's Cameroon striker Patrick Mboma on loan after Liverpool made a late move for his signature. Last season's African player of the year is due to fly in today to finalise a deal to join either Stuart Gray's struggling side, or answer a short-term problem at Anfield.

The 30-year-old wants to play at a high level in the build-up to the World Cup finals. Southampton surprisingly start favourites in the chase as they want to offer Mboma the chance to lead their attack in their struggle to improve.

Mboma has also been approached by Liverpool, but he knows he would be down the pecking order for a game even with Michael Owen injured.

The experienced forward has spent the past three seasons in Italy but is now on the fringes of the Parma side and available for transfer.

Mboma has a French passport and would not need to apply for a work permit. The only hurdle to face is over the terms of the rental. Parma want around £500,000 for letting Mboma leave for the season, but the Saints hope that figure can be reduced.

Meanwhile, the success of Southampton's reported £4m offer for Heerenveen's Swedish international striker Marcus Allback hinges on the the Dutch club's ambitious. Gray is believed to have made the offer after watching his toothless attack blunted by Aston Villa's defence in Monday's 3-1 Premiership defeat.

Heerenveen's financial director, Hank Hoekstra, said his club must decide whether to accept the offer – which would equal the Saints' record transfer fee, paid for Derby's Rory Delap in July – or keep the 28-year-old Allback and have a better chance of qualifying for European football. Hoekstra said: "You have to remember that we could release him now and get good money, but if we keep him we have a better chance of getting into Europe.

"How likely is a move? You will have to ask Southampton. If nothing happens, he is happy here and we are very happy with him – though you never know about the future."

The Middlesbrough captain, Paul Ince, is ready to finish his playing career in Italy after the club refused to give him a new contract at the end of the season. The former England midfielder had hoped to see out his playing days at the Riverside, but the 33-year-old now plans to sign a pre-contract agreement with an Italian club in the new year.

"Paul would have preferred to finish his playing career at Middlesbrough, but has been told his contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of this season," said Ince's agent, Steve Kutner.

"It is now likely that Paul will look to sign a pre-contract after Christmas, and that he will end his playing days with an emotional return to a Serie A side in Italy."