Permit hitch delays Biscan's move to Liverpool

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The Independent Football

Liverpool are facing work permit complications before they can complete the signing of the £7m Croatian midfielder Igor Biscan.

Liverpool are facing work permit complications before they can complete the signing of the £7m Croatian midfielder Igor Biscan.

At the moment, the 22-year-old Dinamo Zagreb player - who has been compared to Frank Rijkaard by the Croatian media - falls fractionally short of the international appearances needed by non-EC players to qualify for a United Kingdom work permit.

Players from outside the European Union must have played in 75 per cent of their country's competitive internationals in the two years prior to the date of the application.

Biscan, who is also interesting Bayern Munich, Barc-elona, Juventus and Fener- bahce, is one cap short of the quota, and Liverpool must wait to see whether he plays in Croatia's World Cup qualifier against Scotland on 11 October.

If he does, they will have to wait until mid-October to officially make their application, because Briscan will then be able to say that he has played in seven of Croatia's eight competitive internationals dating back to mid-October 1998.

Biscan missed two Croatia internationals at the beginning of that month, and Liverpool will not want those games - against Malta and Macedonia - to spoil the equation.

A Department of Employment spokesman said: "The date of the application is important if the player has missed matches, particularly if they are right at the beginning of a two- year period. If the player doesn't meet the 75 per cent criteria it could end up being refused and going to appeal. Friendlies and Under-21 games do not count, only World Cup and European Championship matches."

But Liverpool deny Croatian claims that Biscan has signed a pre-contract agreement. He still has two years of his current contract to run, and pre-contracts can only be signed in the January before a deal runs out the next summer.

Biscan met Liverpool officials in London on their return from the Uefa Cup match in Bucharest and was a guest at last weekend's home game with Sunderland.

Since returning to his home city of Zagreb, Biscan has expressed his delight with the deal, and his club have also agreed to the transfer but claim they want to keep the player until the Croatian league's midwinter break which starts on 15 December. The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, said: "He's a player we have been watching since February last year, we have a wide scouting network."

Biscan first came to English fans' attention when he played a leading role in last season's Champions' League as Croatia Zagreb - they have now returned to their previous Dinamo name - drew 0-0 against the then European champions, Manchester United, at Old Trafford.

If Biscan does eventually move to Anfield, and the club are claiming that transfer talk is premature, he will become Houllier's 20th signing, and take the Frenchman's outlay to more than £60m.

Such is the changing face of Liverpool, with the French teenager Gregory Vignal signing from Montpellier for £500,000 last week, that only three of the 20 signings are British players, and they have cost Houllier a third of his total transfer funds. Liverpool's outgoings since Houllier took over in December 1998 have brought in £22m, and the Frenchman has discarded 16 British players.

The Everton manager, Walter Smith, is giving a trial to the United States international centre half Gregg Berhalter. The 27-year-old has been at Goodison Park this week and a decision on a transfer will be made shortly.

Berhalter is available at the end of his deal with the Dutch side Cambuur and he is keen to follow his fellow countryman Joe-Max Moore to Merseyside. The experienced defender turned down a move to Norwich City after rejecting terms.

Berhalter could be the answer to the defensive problems at Everton, who were set to lose Richard Dunne for £3m to Wimbledon before the London club's Norwegian backers stalled the deal.