Ferguson 'contract on par with best players'

Press Watch
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The News of the World and Sunday Express both claim exclusive knowledge of Sir Alex Ferguson's new Manchester United contract following his decision to postpone retirement for a further three years, and differ only over whether the Old Trafford supremo has actually put pen to paper.

The Express says he has signed a three-and-a-half year deal worth £3.5m a year, rising by another £1.5m per annum with potential bonuses, while the News of the World says he is demanding a £15m contract to stay on, insisting on being on a par with the highest paid player, and states United are "prepared to go all the way to meet his demands" while stalling over David Beckham's claim for image rights. Should the England captain get his way, says the Sunday Mirror, meanwhile, United will face a players' revolt from others who will demand similar recognition.

Further to their story linking United with Igor Tudor, the News of the World reckons United are also tracking the Romanian right-back Cosmin Contra, one of many players set to leave debt-ridden Milan, and claims that PSV Eindhoven's central defender Kevin Hofland will not go to Old Trafford unless he can play in every game. The Mirror reports £7m-rated Contra as a target for Leeds.

The People says West Bromwich Albion are prepared to up their bid for the Tranmere midfielder Jason Koumas, although, if the Mirror's information is correct, it will not be enough. It reckons West Ham have been given the green light to spend £4m on Koumas, said also to interest Tottenham and Leicester. The same paper believes Leicester are trying to sign the Ivory Coast striker Vergès Kroupi-Zahi on loan from the French club Lorient. The People links Tottenham, Sunderland and Blackburn with Ponte Preta's £4 m-rated Brazilian striker, Washington, whom the Mirror links also with Ipswich and Middlesbrough.

Alan Mahon could leave relegation-threatened Blackburn for Birmingham, according to the Mirror, reckoning that such a move could free up funds for Rovers to buy Steve Stone from Aston Villa. The People, meanwhile, says Peter Schmeichel has not taken up his option of a further year at Villa Park following John Gregory's departure, which has alerted Everton and Sunderland.

The Express says David Ginola will not stay at Everton beyond this season, with Marseilles his likely destination, and suggests Chelsea striker Mikael Forssell is running out of patience after failing to secure a regular starting spot at Stamford Bridge. The News of the World links Fulham with a £12m bid to Rangers for the former Chelsea striker Tore Andre Flo and says Everton are lining up a £5m bid for Clinton Morrison, who was Forssell's front-line partner while on loan at Crystal Palace.

Despite the financial crisis still gripping Nottingham Forest, manager Paul Hart is linked by the News of the World with a £500,000 move for West Ham's striker Svetoslav Todorov, while the Mirror says he is eyeing up Blackburn's transfer-listed Damien Johnson. The People says another crisis club, Wimbledon, will release 16 players whose contracts expire this summer, including Neil Ardley, Alan Kimble and Dean Blackwell.



Sir Alex Ferguson has lined up a shock replacement for Laurent Blanc ... the England defender Gareth Southgate. The Manchester United manager made an enquiry for the Middlesbrough centre-half before last month's Champions' League deadline and he will return with a firm bid in the summer.


Manchester United are being linked with a £14m move for the Juventus defender Igor Tudor. The Croatian claims United contacted him last year to discuss a potential move to Old Trafford, but after opting for one more year with Juventus he now believes the time is right for a move to the Premiership.