Liverpool unveil £4m Abel Xavier as Babbel's cover

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The Independent Online

Abel Xavier is set to become only the third player in 67 years to move from Everton to Liverpool and he is expected to collect more than £4m on the way.

The Portuguese defender has completed a medical examination and agreed personal terms at Anfield, but he will not officially become a Liverpool player until today when final details of the £800,000, three-and-a-half-year deal are expected to be completed. The move will give Abel Xavier the chance to play in the Champions' League and is likely to help him secure his place in Portugal's World Cup squad.

Everton fans must now come to terms with seeing another player cross Stanley Park following Nick Barmby's move two summers ago. Before him the previous player to make the switch was Dave Hickson in 1959, who in turn made the first such move since W J Hartill in 1935.

Sources at Everton claim the 29-year-old turned down a new £20,000-a-week, three-year contract last week. He is believed to have signed a longer deal with Liverpool worth £25,000 a week. Everton have got £800,000 for a player who would have left for nothing in the summer on a Bosman deal and will also save £200,000 in wages.

Abel Xavier's move will not incense Everton fans as much as Barmby's departure in July 2000 because the former has hardly been a roaring success at Goodison, playing just 45 games for the club and being constantly hit by injury and illness as well as erratic form.

Walter Smith, the Everton manager, said: "It has been a shock for the fans. But he turned down our contract, and we faced the situation of knowing he would move for nothing in the summer and he had to go somewhere now. Going to Liverpool is his decision.

"We had to get the money now or nothing in the summer, so a fee now has turned out to be a decent deal for us. Liverpool will be happy too, so both of us are fine with what has happened. It's another player crossing Stanley Park after Nick Barmby, but Abel was in charge of his own destiny and it's his choice and we all have to get on with it."

Smith added: "Nothing surprises me these days in football. If a player doesn't want to extend his contract we have to let him move on. Some clubs have this happening with two years of a player's contract still to go.

"But to get £800,000 for a player who has just three playing months left on his contract is a good deal for us."

For Liverpool's assistant manager, Phil Thompson, it has been a chance to add a seasoned international to his depleted defence which will soon see Jamie Carragher suspended and is unlikely to have Markus Babbel back this season because of his long-term illness.

Thompson said: "Abel will have to live with the fact that he is coming from Everton to Liverpool; it's a fact of life. Nicky Barmby has done very well under difficult circumstances.

"To get Abel for not a lot of money is a tremendous thing for the club. Everton fans will no doubt be surprised, but he could have been at any club as far as we are concerned. We just believe he is a very good player who will enhance our squad in an area where we have been a little light of late."

Thompson continued: "He is eligible for the Champions' League and he will certainly help us there. We believe he has the ability to come in and do a job for Liverpool. The fact that he already lives here is an added bonus. He has not got the problem of joining us and then settling into the area. He knows what the Premiership is about; he is a very competitive player, and we have noticed him for some time. Certainly against us he has always put in very impressive performances."

Abel Xavier will provide cover at right-back and in the centre of defence and can also play a holding role in midfield.

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