McClaren keen to swap Ince and £5m for Ball

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The Independent Football

Everton and Middlesbrough are setting up a swap deal which would take the defender Michael Ball to the Riverside in exchange for Boro's Paul Ince and around £5m in cash.

As well as taking Ince, a former captain of Liverpool, back to Merseyside, a move could intriguingly renew his old England midfield partnership with Paul Gascoigne, another former Middlesbrough veteran now at Everton.

Middlesbrough's new manager, Steve McClaren, wants rid of Ince, who draws a substantial salary and is available for nothing. Ince would almost certainly have to take a pay cut at Everton, but he still has a home on the Wirral and it is believed he would welcome the challenge of joining Walter Smith's band of tried and tested pros.

A stumbling block to the move could be the valuation of Ball. Everton are looking for £6m for the promising young central defender, who recently rejected a new contract offer at Goodison worth £20,000 a week.

As part of his on-going clear-out at the Riverside, McClaren is also poised to sell the striker Andy Campbell to Crystal Palace for around £1m.

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, took his close-season spending past the £25m mark yesterday after completing the signing of the Japan international midfielder Junichi Inamoto for a fee of around £4m.

The 21-year-old Inamoto, who becomes the Premiership's first Japanese player, has signed a four-year deal. However Wenger insisted that his latest capture has not been bought as an insurance policy against Patrick Vieira leaving the club. "I am beginning to feel a bit like a parrot on the subject of Vieira," Wenger said. "For me the subject is over. Patrick has shown his commitment to the club and nothing has changed."

Derby County are making a £2.5m bid for the Deportivo La Coruña striker Turu Flores. The move for the Argentinian comes in the light of their failing negotiations to sign the Lazio striker Fabrizio Ravanelli, who insists he is staying in Rome, despite an earlier Derby statement that he would be arriving for more talks today.

"I am staying at Lazio," Ravanelli said last night. "It is my wish and therefore, I am not going to Derby County."

Ipswich Town are interested in signing the midfielder Finidi George from Real Mallorca. The 30-year-old Nigerian international would cost around £4m.

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