Gérard Houllier, the Lyon manager, last night placed Milan Baros in a delicate dilemma when he lodged an astonishing £8.5m bid for the striker who, only two days ago, declared he had no intention of leaving Liverpool for France.
The Anfield club immediately accepted the offer from their former manager, who is armed with the £26m raised from Michael Essien's sale to Chelsea and has agreed to pay £1.5m above the asking price in order to drive his competitors out of the market for the Czech Republic international.
Baros revealed he had agreed personal terms with Aston Villa earlier this week, even though Liverpool had not accepted their improved offer of around £6.5m, and had little interest in taking his goalscoring talents across the Channel. "I have nothing against the French league," he said in response to interest from Lyon and Monaco, "but I consider the leagues in England and Spain to be the best ones."
Houllier's move will extend a saga that Baros had hoped to resolve with a move to the Midlands today. Liverpool will not grant the striker his wish unless Villa now match Lyon's offer, either in monetary terms or by adding Nolberto Solano to the proposed deal, while Baros's reluctance for a reunion with Houllier will continue to place the Anfield club's transfer plans on hold.
Michael Owen remains an Anfield target providing Real Madrid lower their asking price while a centre-half and right midfielder remain the priorities for manager Rafael Benitez.
Norwich City have agreed to pay £2m to Birmingham City for their striker Clinton Morrison. The forward is currently trailing behind Emile Heskey, Walter Pandiani and Mikael Forssell in the list of forwards at St Andrews but a move to Carrow Road could see him form a formidable partnership with Dean Ashton.
However, Ashton has attracted interest from Wigan Athletic, who recently sold Nathan Ellington to West Bromwich Albion. Portsmouth are also thought to be considering a bid but their first choice striker is currently playing overseas.
Tottenham Hotspur could also be interested in making a move for the Norwich forward if they are unsuccessful in their attempts to sign Dirk Kuyt from Feyenoord. Norwich would want at least £5m to let Ashton go but their manager Nigel Worthington insisted yesterday that "there have been no approaches".