Liverpool keen to lure Ball across divide

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The Independent Football

Liverpool are holding negotiations with Everton to sign Michael Ball, in what could turn out to be Merseyside's answer to the Sol Campbell affair.

The Anfield manager, Gérard Houllier, is willing to outbid the England Under-21 defender's other admirers in order to force their cross-city rivals to sell. The blue side of Liverpool now faces an agonising wait over the next few days as Ball considers whether to do what Nick Barmby did and cross Stanley Park in a controversial transfer.

Campbell's move from Tottenham to Arsenal caused shockwaves among supporters in north London, and if Ball were to move to Anfield it would be an equally devastating blow for Everton fans.

The Goodison club rate Ball at around £7m, and have already turned down an offer of cash plus Paul Ince from Middlesbrough last week.

The Everton owner, Bill Kenwright, will be reluctant to drop his valuation, but Liverpool would be prepared to pay £6m in cash for Ball. Everton need the money and may have to settle for a compromise figure.

Ball is aware of Liverpool's interest but has misgivings over the move because of the controversy it would cause. In all likelihood he would probably have to move out of the city, severing his ties with friends and fans he has grown up with.

Fulham have agreed terms with Juventus' Dutch international goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who has lined up a four-year contract subject to a medical today. Van der Sar, who has 44 caps for the Netherlands, previously played for Ajax before joining Juventus in 1999.

Fulham's French manager, Jean Tigana, said: "His playing ability has been proven at the very highest level both domestically and internationally and we believe that he will be a great asset to the squad."

The Dutchman was impressed by Fulham's aims for the future. "I am happy and relieved to have signed for Fulham. The plans they presented to me were impressive and I especially like the ambition that the club has."

Steed Malbranque's £4.5m transfer from Lyon to Fulham has been delayed until later in the week. The Londoners were keen to emphasise there is no hitch in the deal for the 21-year-old French midfielder, claiming paperwork is the only factor dragging out the move.

The Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, is running out of time in his efforts to sign Matt Elliott from his old club Leicester City. O'Neill is ready to put in a new bid for Elliott and hope Leicester will accept before tomorrow's deadline for the Champions' League second qualifying round tie with Ajax.

Celtic have made an opening offer at around £2.5m but the Leicester manager, Peter Taylor, who knows Elliott is keen on the move, wants closer to £4m.

A crucial factor is that Elliott will not ask for a transfer to push the move through as that would mean losing his loyalty money at Leicester. Insiders claim Leicester would prefer if their captain demanded to go as it would make it easier for them to explain his departure.

Leeds United and Chelsea have agreed deals for all their Uefa Cup home matches this season to be shown live on Sky Sports Extra, a channel available only on digital satellite.

BSkyB, which owns stakes in both clubs, beat off competition from the BBC and Channel 5 for the rights. Rights to the clubs' away legs are still on offer.

Chelsea say that both Internazionale and Milan are keen to take their unsettled midfielder Sam Dalla Bona back to Italy.

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