Middlesbrough seek settlement over Ziege move

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The Independent Online

The Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson, has launched a broadside at Liverpool over their controversial signing of Christian Ziege.

The Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson, has launched a broadside at Liverpool over their controversial signing of Christian Ziege.

The 28-year-old Germany defender, who scored for his new club in their 4-3 defeat at Leeds on Saturday, left Boro early this season barely 12 months after joining the Teessiders on a five-year contract.

Boro's manager, Bryan Robson, was furious at Liverpool's conduct and immediately called for a Premier League inquiry, which is still in progress. But Gibson is in no doubt the Reds were in the wrong and hinted his club could head for the courts to seek redress.

"The fact that Liverpool made the move two or three weeks before the start of the season inflicted maximum damage on Bryan Robson's pre-season plans," he said. "If it had happened at the end of last season it would have given us time to prepare and find an alternative. But the way it was done maximised the damage to our football club.

"We haven't closed the option of taking the matter outside football. We don't rule out any possibility. The rules have clearly been broken. We're not so naïve as to believe they haven't been broken, and I don't think football is so naïve to believe they weren't broken. I would hope the severity of the damages would be a warning to all clubs."

Reports that Liverpool were about to make a bid for Ziege began to circulate towards the end of last season amid claims that there was a clause in his contract which allowed him to speak to any club offering £5.5m or more for his services.

Robson battled in vain for several weeks to keep his £4m signing from Milan at the club but eventually had to admit defeat. However, Boro were furious at having to sell one of their more consistent performers at a price they maintain is £2.5m below his market value and vowed to fight for what they believed they were due.

"I was very disappointed we lost Ziege because he is a top-class player," Gibson said. "But I was also disappointed with him and with the conduct of Liverpool.

"When we signed him it was a real break for him. He'd had a horrid time at Milan. He said that, for compassionate reasons, he needed to know that if things didn't work out for him in England and at Middlesbrough there would be some way out. We told him at the time that the deal could not be risk-free. We were laying out £4m plus a five-year contract, and there had to be some risk in it for him.

"We took great comfort from the rules of the Premier League which state quite categorically that no club can induce a player to join them, and no player can induce a club to sign him. Further clauses in Premier League rules say it's illegal for either the football club to disclose details of the contract of a player or for the player to display details of his contract.

"We wish to explore that through the correct channels so that the matter can be concluded to the satisfaction of the Premier League rule book. It's an ongoing situation."

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