Bruce tests Rovers' resolve with £5.5m bid for Dunn

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The Independent Football

Steve Bruce, the Birmingham City manager, has made a club record £5.5m bid for Blackburn Rovers' unsettled midfielder David Dunn.

Bruce stepped in immediately for Dunn after finding out he was unwilling to commit to a long-term future at Rovers. Birmingham's offer will be considered by the Blackburn board - and by the former England Under-21 captain - but the signs are that it will succeed.

The Birmingham bid is part of a drive to sign three leading players, with the Manchester United keeper Roy Carroll and the Arsenal striker Francis Jeffers among their other targets. Bruce is also chasing some big names that other so-called larger clubs can not afford at the moment.

That may be the key in helping Dunn pick Birmingham ahead of rivals who like him but do not have the money to interest Blackburn in a sale. Everton are among the other clubs interested and could offer Thomas Gravesen, their Danish midfielder, in part-exchange.

Dunn will have the final say on the deal even though he has two years left on his contract at Blackburn. His on-going feud with the Rovers manager, Graeme Souness, has seen him pushed on to the right wing and often left out altogether. So it might be in the best interest of both parties if he goes now.

Birmingham's offer would see half of the money paid up front and the rest in instalments if they stay in the Premiership. Blackburn will be taking a gamble by accepting the fee on those terms, but the money would let Souness sign the three or four players he is after and probably avoid having to sell Damien Duff or Brad Friedel.

Meanwhile, the Blackburn midfielder Garry Flitcroft has agreed a new three-year contract at Ewood Park.

Another Everton target, the Ghanaian midfielder Mickael Essien, is on the verge of signing for Liverpool. The French club Bastia are set to accept Liverpool's £4m offer.

The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, stepped in ahead of his Everton counterpart, David Moyes, for the tough youngster and French sources indicated yesterday that his bid betters a rival move by the new French champions, Lyon.

Houllier has good relations with the Corsican team because he loaned them the defender Gregory Vignal, who may also become part of the permanent deal in the negotiations.

Essien is earmarked for the midfield anchor role that Dietmar Hamman plays and Salif Diao has so far failed to fill.

One player Everton have signed, however, is Joseph Yobo. The Nigerian, who impressed on loan at Goodison last season, has signed a four-year deal worth around £20,000 a week after the club took up an option on a £4.5m permanent transfer from Marseilles.