Chelsea and Valencia enter Ziege race

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The Independent Football

Liverpool look like facing stiff competition from Chelsea and the Spanish club Valencia for the signature of the German international Christian Ziege after Middlesbrough gave him permission to open talks with other clubs.

Liverpool look like facing stiff competition from Chelsea and the Spanish club Valencia for the signature of the German international Christian Ziege after Middlesbrough gave him permission to open talks with other clubs.

The Anfield club offered £5.5m for the 28-year-old midfielder two weeks ago, but the latest development is almost certain to provoke wide interest. "I'm very happy that I now have this permission thanks to my advisers," said Ziege, who is valued at around £8m by Middlesbrough. "My contract expressly states that I can leave if a club bids a certain amount for me. I don't know why it took so long and I can't say I am happy about the delay. I have a good feeling about Liverpool. I have met Gérard Houllier and I have a very good opinion of him.

"We have talked together and my first impression of him is very positive. We share the same philosophy about football and it could be good to work with him. But I have been told that Chelsea and Valencia are interested in me.

"We will see what happens, but clearly I am going to have some big decisions in the next few days. I am training in Munich to try to get match fit, so that whatever happens I will be ready for the new season."

The Arsenal manager, Arsÿne Wenger, and club vice-chairman David Dein are expected in Bordeaux tomorrow for new talks over the French international striker Sylvain Wiltord, according to a report from France. The French daily newspaper l'Equipe claims a deal is close between the clubs. Bordeaux want £12m for Wiltord but so far Arsenal have offered around £11m.

Dein and Wenger are ready to increase their bid, according to the paper, and are hoping to persuade the Bordeaux president, Jean-Louis Triaud, to let the player leave.

Plans for a new European league including Celtic and Rangers are set to go ahead in 2002, according to a BBC report. Seven European countries are involved in the plan, with Benfica and Porto of Portugal, PSV Eindhoven, Ajax and Feyenoord of the Netherlands, Rosenborg of Norway and Anderlecht from Belgium among the other clubs expected to join.

Representatives of 16 clubs are set to discuss the plans on Friday and believe they are close to securing Uefa backing.

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