The Manchester City manager, Kevin Keegan, is making a surprise move to sign the brilliant young goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi as a cut-price replacement for David Seaman.
Keegan is in negotiations with Al-Habsi's club Lyn Oslo in Norway to try to agree a deal and would like the 21-year-old to be given permission to sign him immediately. The City manager is worried about Seaman's fitness and is also without Nicky Weaver, leaving him with the rookie Dane Kevin Ellegaard.
Al-Habsi is also young but has been a success in Norway and is also in the price range that Manchester City can afford. Born in Oman, Al-Habsi moved to Lyn from the Omani club Al-Nasser. He has played for his country and is rated the most exciting young keeper to come out of an Arabic country.
It is an unusual target for Keegan, but he is under orders to buy a new keeper without breaking the bank. Keegan had considered several options, including a swap involving Darren Huckerby for Robert Green at Norwich, but even that would have been too expensive. Even Leeds United's Paul Robinson and West Ham's David James were discussed, but eventually City scouts pushed hard for the Omani.
The Sheffield United manager, Neil Warnock, has pulled off a double swoop to avert a possible goalkeeper crisis at Bramall Lane. The Northern Ireland international Alan Fettis, currently with Hull City, and Lee Baxter, recently with Malmo following a spell in Sweden, were both expected to sign in time to be available for today's trip to Burnley. Paddy Kenny is still out with a knee injury and Paul Gerrard has recently returned to Everton, leaving the summer signing Kristian Rogers as the only recognised keeper at the club.
Meanwhile, Blackburn Rovers are eager to sign the United States striker Brian McBride on loan. "I'm talking to his agent and my chief executive is trying to push things along with the organisation over there," the Blackburn manager, Graeme Souness, said yesterday. "We've declared our interest." McBride, who plays for the Major League Soccer side Columbus Crew, impressed while on a three-month loan with Everton early this year.
Everton wanted to keep McBride but could not afford to buy him. Souness said he would like McBride on loan when the transfer window opens on 1 January, with a view to a permanent contract when the season ends.