Villa win Djemba-Djemba race

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The Independent Online

Manchester United yesterday wrote off nearly £2m after agreeing to sell the midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba to Aston Villa.

Manchester United yesterday wrote off nearly £2m after agreeing to sell the midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba to Aston Villa.

The 23-year-old Cameroon international had turned down permanent moves to Birmingham City and Portsmouth - who offered £2m - and loan deals to Benfica and Paris St-Germain after being told he could go by United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

United paid £3.5m for Djemba-Djemba from Nantes in 2003, when he was hailed as a successor to Roy Keane, but he has failed to make an impression at Old Trafford having made 20 league appearances, including seven as substitute.

Villa have been searching for a central midfielder and will pay £1.35m for Djemba-Djemba, who signed a four-and-a-half-year deal, plus up to £500,000 more depending on appearances. Djemba-Djemba said last night: "Villa are a big club with a big history and good young players so it's good for me. For me, it's to play football; if I'm not playing, it's not good.

"I know [Birmingham were interested]. But [Villa] in my country are known more than Birmingham. I prefer here because they play good football."

The signing is a relief to Villa manager David O'Leary who has seen his team slip to 11th in the table. He has missed out on strikers James Beattie and Aiyegbeni Yakubu, who will now stay at Portsmouth until the summer when he is expected to move to Newcastle United for £8m. O'Leary has also seen potential deals for midfielders Amdy Faye and Steed Malbranque fail while the Newcastle defender Andy O'Brien, another target, has signed a new contract.

Elsewhere in the West Midlands, West Bromwich Albion last night signed the Burnley midfielder Richard Chaplow after agreeing a £1.5m fee with the Championship club. Chaplow, 19, is highly rated and has played for England Under-21s.

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