Houllier outflanks Moyes with £3.5m Essien bid

The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, has stolen a march on his Everton counterpart, David Moyes, by making a bid for the Goodison club's top transfer target - the hard-tackling Bastia midfielder Mickael Essien.

Moyes and his assistant, Alan Irvine, flew to watch the Ghanaian international in action for his club against Sochaux only to discover Houllier was there too. The Anfield manager has contacted Bastia with an offer of a £3.5m deal, plus the added attraction of loaning Essien back to Bastia for a season. Marseilles and Lyon were also interested.

Leeds have accepted Roma's offer to make Olivier Dacourt's loan move to the Serie A club permanent, according to the Italians. The 28-year-old Frenchman has agreed personal terms. Roma's sporting director, Franco Baldini, said: "We received the fax from Leeds yesterday afternoon and it's going to take a couple of days to ratify the transfer."

The Italians have not announced the fee, but they have confirmed the amount is slightly lower than the £4.2m originally requested by Leeds.

Leicester City are making a surprise move for the Ipswich striker Marcus Bent for £1m. Ipswich are under pressure to sell in order to get out of administration soon and the club needs money from sales in order to make some signings.

The reserve striker Chris Shuker has agreed a new one-year deal at Manchester City.

Fulham missed out on a £550,000 windfall from their sponsors betfair.com last season because they failed to hit performance targets. The Cottagers were paid £600,000 up front last summer, but would have received another £600,000 if they had triggered bonuses by finishing in the Premiership's top six and reaching either cup semi-finals. Instead the club earned just £50,000 extra in additional incentivised income.

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