Middlesbrough must pay £2m to Forlan's 'sponsor'

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The Independent Online

Middlesbrough's attempt to sign the Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan is being held up because his "sponsor" wants a £2m-plus payment.

The Middlesbrough manager, Steve McClaren, is closing in on the £6m-rated Independiente striker after the Riverside club's chief executive, Keith Lamb, agreed a payment deal with the Argentinian club.

Lamb has made an offer of around £3.6m – 60 per cent of Forlan's total price – in 18 staged monthly payments which is acceptable to the hard-up outfit. But 40 per cent of Forlan is owned by Samuel Liberman, a multi-millionaire investor who is one of Argentina's most wealthy men, and he wants his slice paid up front.

Liberman, who has made his fortune with several companies, mainly in the media, invests in leading players as part of a sporting portfolio which includes several racehorses. He has a reputation as a philanthropist, piling fortunes into a Jerusalem university where he studied for his degrees, but is also known for being hard-nosed when it comes to seeing his money as soon as possible.

The process of businessmen paying for a share in footballers is common in Argentina and does not break any Fifa rules, but it is proving a big obstacle for Boro. McClaren and Lamb have already had a hard fight to raise the cash for Forlan's fee and the monthly payments are an ideal solution, but finding Liberman's money immediately is the problem.

Forlan is waiting for today's developments. His agents are also looking for their commission money up front and this is stretching Middlesbrough's resources and patience.

The 22-year-old striker will receive £800,000 from his part of the sale under Argentinian rules and that is before he negotiates a contract. Middlesbrough are also prepared to pay Forlan £750,000-a-year on a four-and-a-half year deal, an attractive offer to persuade him to join them rather than wait for Manchester United.

The United chief executive, Peter Kenyon, broke off a corporate trip to the Far East yesterday to try to rescue the deal – and a move for Paolo Di Canio. Their offer for Forlan of £4.5m was rejected last week and let in Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough representatives have been in South America, closing the Forlan deal while the Old Trafford club have been left behind by their former assistant manager McClaren's quick thinking.

Independiente are still hopeful of a deal. They have booked a party onto a British Airways flight from Buenos Aires today, expecting the final details to be agreed.

Bolton are trying to sign the Romanian World Cup centre-half Daniel Prodan to help them out of a defensive crisis. The experienced defender is arriving for a medical today and could sign for the rest of the season to join Wanderers' Premiership survival fight, as well as pushing for a place in his country's squad for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Prodan, 29, has been playing for National Bucharest this season after a couple of years of misery when he was recovering from a knee injury that halted his career with Rangers in Scotland.

The cultured defender is now fully fit and has an agreement that he can move if an English Premiership club come in for him.

Prodan, who has also played for PSV Eindhoven and Athletico Madrid, has seen past moves to Aston Villa and Everton collapse and is eager to prove the doubters wrong.

The Trotters' manager, Sam Allardyce, has stepped in fast to invite him to England as Colin Hendry will be out for up to two months after an ankle operation and there are injury worries surrounding four of his other centre-backs.

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