David O'Leary, the Aston Villa manager, has surprisingly joined the race to sign Leeds United's Mark Viduka during the transfer window which opened at midnight. O'Leary, who brought the Australian striker to Elland Road in 2000, made an inquiry about Viduka when Villa played at Leeds on Boxing Day and thinks he has a realistic chance of success because of the Yorkshire club's financial problems.
O'Leary knows Leeds will have to consider offers, not least because Viduka's £65,000-a-week wages are a large drain on a club which is more than £80m in debt. The Villa manager is hoping they will be desperate enough to offload that contractual liability to sell the player at a bargain price.
Manchester United have also made an approach for Viduka but are interested in other targets including PSV Eindhoven's teenage winger Arjen Robben and Fulham's Louis Saha. Those options, both of which could cost United less in wages, take the pressure off the champions to sign Viduka. That is likely to strengthen O'Leary's hand.
Leeds will sell Viduka because the transfer fee may help satisfy the short-term demands of two of their major creditors before the 19 January deadline when they may face administration. Viduka was signed on a player-lease arrangement and some of the fee would go to Registered European Football Finance, the Guernsey-based company which financed his £6m move from Celtic. The rest could go to bondholders, while offloading the huge salary would also help at the bank.
The former Leeds chairman, Professor John McKenzie, yesterday sold 500,000 of his 4m shares in the club, earning £15,000 after tax and other deductions. McKenzie is understood to have resigned to pursue the possibility of attracting outside investors, but his actions have brought into question his motives.
"This is a man that's supposed to be putting something back into the club, yet it is a strange way of organising a takeover," said Dr Bill Gerrard, a professor of sport management and finance at Leeds University Business School. "This looks like the actions of a man who is getting out with what he can get. He is taking his money and running."
Villa's problem will be affording Viduka's wages as he is being paid almost three times the salary limit at the club. However, O'Leary is prepared to fund the signing of Viduka by selling Juan Pablo Angel, the Colombian striker who has scored six goals in Villa's last seven games.
One window deal that was agreed yesterday was Fulham's loan signing of Bobby Petta from Celtic until the end of the season. The Rotterdam-born left-sided player started his career with Feyenoord before switching to Ipswich in 1996. He signed for Celtic on a free transfer in July 1999.
"He has proven ability, which will help give us some important strength in depth in the squad," the Fulham manager, Chris Coleman, said.
Another imminent deal will see Newcastle's Nikos Dabizas sign for Leicester for a nominal fee. The defender, who last appeared for Newcastle in February, needs first-team football to revive his hopes of making Greece's squad for Euro 2004.
It is a shrewd move by the Leciester City manager, Micky Adams, who is trying to strengthen his squad on a limited budget and bring in players who can help them stay in the Premiership. Adams has let Gerry Taggart go on loan to Stoke City and the arrival of Dabizas, who cost Newcastle £2m in 1998, will mean that the Northern Ireland international could be surplus to requirements at the Walkers Stadium.
Aside from Manchester United's almost certain purchase of a striker and a defender, and Chelsea's almost inevitable extravagance on a world-class player or two, there are low expectations of widespread big deals.
The situation at Birmingham, where money is limited if not absent, exemplifies the status of many clubs. David Gold, the chairman, has warned fans there will be no repeat of last season's spending spree.
"[The Birmingham manager] Steve Bruce would love to sign a forward of the calibre of Chelsea's Eidur Gudjohnsen or Celtic's Henrik Larsson, both of whom he admires, but such players come at an exorbitant cost which we could probably not afford unless we were sure of being in the Premiership next season," Gold said.
Even Arsène Wenger is not buying. "I am happy with the squad that I have got. I am not in the market at all. We have some great young players coming through, and some that people haven't even seen yet," the Arsenal manager said.
WINDOW SHOPPING: POSSIBLE PREMIERSHIP INS AND OUTS IN THE JANUARY SALES
Probable outs: Moritz Volz, Sebastian Svard (loan).
Speculative ins: Sebastien Frey (gk, Parma), Djibril Cissé (f, Auxerre), Samuel Eto'o (f, Mallorca), Jermain Defoe (f, West Ham), Jose Reyes (f, Seville), Stephen Carr (d, Tottenham).
Speculative outs: Sylvain Wiltord, Kanu.
Probable out: Hassan Kachloul.
Speculative ins: Mark Viduka (f, Leeds), Tomasz Radzinski (f, Everton), Michael Bridges (f, Leeds), Michael Dawson (d, Nottm Forest), Muzzy Izzet (m, Leicester), Alan Smith (f, Leeds), Edgaras Jankauskas (f, Porto), Robert Earnshaw (f, Cardiff), Phil Jagielka (m, Sheff Utd), Nolberto Solano (m, Newcastle).
Speculative outs: Juan Pablo Angel, Darius Vassell.
Definite in: Mikael Forssell (permanent).
Speculative ins: John Hartson (f, Celtic), Henrik Larsson (f, Celtic), Mark Viduka (f, Leeds), Andy Griffin (d, Newcastle).
Probable outs: Corrado Grabbi, Alan Mahon.
Speculative ins: Muzzy Izzet (m, Leicester), Brian McBride (f, Columbus Crew), Andy Reid (m, Nottm Forest), Salomon Olembe (m, on loan at Leeds), David Unsworth (d, Everton), Julian Gray (m, Crystal Palace).
Speculative outs: Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Matt Jansen, Sebastian Pelzer.
Definite in: Donovan Ricketts (gk, Galaxy, Jamaica).
Speculative ins: Javier Moreno (f, Atletico Madrid), Eyal Berkovic (m, Man City), Johan Mjallby (d, Celtic), Carlos Gamarra (d, Internazionale), Ibrahim Ba (m, permanent from Marseilles).
Speculative outs: J-J Okocha.
Probable out: Mathias Svensson.
Speculative ins: Petri Pasanen (d, Ajax), Darren Purse (d, Birmingham), Ricardo Fuller (f, Preston).
Speculative ins: Roberto Ayala (d, Valencia), Luis Figo (m, Real Madrid), Jermain Defoe (f, West Ham), Lucio (d, Bayer Leverkusen), Christian Vieri (f, Internazionale), Adriano (f, Parma), Wayne Rooney (f, Everton), Sebastien Frey (gk, Parma), Jose Reyes (f, Seville), David Trezeguet (f, Juventus), Rivaldo (f, out of contract), Ronaldo (f, Real Madrid), Pavel Nedved (m, Juventus), Scott Parker (m, Charlton).
Speculative outs: Winston Bogarde, Celestine Babayaro, Mario Stanic, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Eidur Gudjohnsen.
Speculative ins: Stephen Pearson (m, Motherwell), Sean Davis (m, Fulham), Jason Koumas (m, West Brom), Christian Basilla (d, Strasbourg).
Speculative outs: Duncan Ferguson, Wayne Rooney, Alex Nyarko, Tomasz Radzinski, David Unsworth, Niclas Alexandersson, Scot Gemmill, Steve Simonsen, Paul Gerrard.
Definite in: Bobby Peta (m, from Celtic).
Probable in: Moritz Volz (d, from Arsenal) (permanent).
Speculative ins: David Wright (d, Crewe), Dado Prso (f, Monaco), Olivier Kapo (f, Auxerre), Robert Earnshaw (f, Cardiff), John Hartson (f, Celtic).
Speculative outs: Louis Saha, Sean Davis.
Speculative outs: Mark Viduka, Michael Bridges, Alan Smith, Paul Robinson.
Speculative ins: Alexei Yeremenko (f, HJK Helsinki), Nikos Dabizas (d, Newcastle), Bryan Hughes (m, Birmingham), Chris Hall (d, Oldham).
Speculative outs: Muzzy Izzet.
Speculative ins: Michael Dawson (d, Nottm Forest), Logan Bailly (gk, Genk), Djibril Cissé (f, Auxerre), Alan Smith (f, Leeds), Kieron Dyer (m, Newcastle), Rivaldo (f, out of contract), Fode Mansare (m, Montpellier), Marc Overmars (m, Barcelona).
Speculative outs: Bruno Cheyrou, Stéphane Henchoz, Abel Xavier, Jerzy Dudek.
Definite out: Darren Huckerby.
Speculative ins: Robert Green (gk, Norwich), Rab Douglas (gk, Celtic), Paul Robinson (gk, Leeds).
Speculative outs: Eyal Berkovic, Robbie Fowler.
Definite in: Dong Fangzhuo.
Speculative ins: Arjen Robben (f, PSV), Daniel van Buyten (d, Marseilles), Louis Saha (f, Fulham), Liam Miller (m, Celtic), Gareth Southgate (d, Middlesbrough), Rivaldo (f, out of contract), Mark Viduka (f, Leeds), Jermain Defoe (f, West Ham), Christian Vieiri (f, Internazionale).
Speculative outs: Fabien Barthez, Diego Forlan, Nicky Butt.
Speculative ins: Filipo Inzaghi (f, Milan), Eidur Gudjohnsen (f, Chelsea), Andy Cole (f, Blackburn), Dwight Yorke (f, Blackburn), Nicky Butt (m, Man Utd), Mark Viduka (f, Leeds), Edgaras Jankauskas (f, Porto), Rivaldo (f, out of contract).
Speculative outs: Stewart Downing, Joseph-Desiré Job, Gareth Southgate.
Speculative ins: Rivaldo (f, out of contract), Michael Ball (m, Rangers), Michael Bridges (f, Leeds), Stephen Carr (d, Tottenham), Emile Mpenza (f, Schalke 04), Alan Smith (f, Leeds).
Speculative outs: Andy Griffin, Nolberto Solano, Nikos Dabizas, Robbie Elliott.
Speculative ins: Eyal Berkovic (m, Man City), Tal Ben Haim (d, Maccabi Tel Aviv), Paul Jones (gk, Southampton), Nigel Reo-Coker (m, Wimbledon), Richard Duffy (d, Swansea). Speculative outs: Sebastian Schemmel.
Speculative ins: Javier de Pedro (m, Real Sociedad), Oyvind Svenning (d, Sundsvall), Martin Rowlands (m, QPR), Paul Smith (gk, Brentford).
Speculative outs: Anders Svensson, Jo Tessem, Agustin Delgado, Chris Marsden, Paul Jones.
Definite in: Michael Brown (m, from Sheff Utd).
Speculative ins: Andy Reid (m, Nottm Forest), David Pizarro (Udinese), Diego (m, Santos), Nolberto Solano (m, Newcastle), Nicky Butt (m, Man Utd).
Speculative outs: Stephen Carr, Kazuyuki Toda.
Definite in: Ioan Viorel Ganea (f, Bursaspor).
Speculative ins: Chris Marsden (m, Southampton), Paul Jones (gk, Southampton).
Speculative out: Dean Sturridge.Reuse content