Okocha deal puts smile back on Allardyce's face

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The Independent Football

The Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, has expressed his delight at finally laying to rest the rumours surrounding the future of Jay-Jay Okocha.

Despite being linked with a number of clubs in recent months, Okocha signed a lucrative new three-year deal with Bolton yesterday, taking him through to 2007.

Okocha's future often overshadowed Bolton's rise to prominence at the end of what has been the club's best season in the Premier League. He captained the side to eighth in the Premiership, their highest-placed finish, as well as their run to the Carling Cup final where they were beaten by Middlesbrough.

"Securing Jay-Jay's services for the next three seasons firmly underlines this football club's desire to compete in the upper reaches of the Premiership," Allardyce said. "His performances over the past two seasons have helped to fortify the name and reputation of Bolton Wanderers, and his signature is a marvellous boost to everybody connected with the club."

While Okocha is likely to become one of the highest-paid players in Bolton's history, Allardyce has scoffed at suggestions that the Nigeria international midfielder is now set to pick up £2.5m a year.

"Jay-Jay has signed a significant contract, but it astounds me where figures of £7.5m have come from. This is wide of the mark," he added.

Allardyce's Brazilian target may be slipping away from him in a northward direction, however. Rivaldo said the lure of the "temple" of Glasgow football and the Champions' League has convinced him to look towards Celtic as his next career destination. The 32-year-old has previously stated Bolton were his "priority" although he was flattered by the Parkhead link.

A deal with Allardyce appears to have fallen through after the Wanderers manager became frustrated by the lack of movement. Rivaldo has now effectively suggested that the Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, make his move.

"Scotland is a paradise for forwards, and to play for Celtic would be sensational for a Brazilian," he said. "Glasgow is a temple of football. The Scottish supporters are magnificent. For them a player is sacred and they defend him to the maximum.

"To play in the Champions' League is very important to me and that will be a favourable point. I am not auctioning myself to the highest bidder. At my age, although I am in good physical condition, I cannot make another error like I did in Italy - I want to enjoy football.

"I would choose a great Scottish club before a smaller English club because I aspire to win trophies."