Pompey delight at luring Lauren on free transfer

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Portsmouth last night beat off competition from West Ham United to sign the Arsenal defender Lauren on a free transfer.

The Cameroonian international, who is 30 today, agreed a two-and-a-half-year deal at Fratton Park after Portsmouth matched his £38,000-a-week wages. West Ham are understood to have offered more money but were thwarted partly because Lauren did not want to be involved in a relegation battle.

The presence of Sol Campbell and Kanu, two former Arsenal players, is thought to have been crucial in Lauren's decision to move to the South Coast. He joined Arsenal in 2000 for £7.2m from Mallorca but has been out for 13 months with a knee injury - he was out of contract this summer.

"Lauren is an outstanding player," said Portsmouth's manager, Harry Redknapp. "He is a great athlete and professional, very strong and quick, too. I'm delighted he's decided to join us over a whole host of clubs."

The signing will lead to questions as to whether or not Chelsea will now recall the right-back Glen Johnson, who was expected to be at Portsmouth on loan until the end of the season.

West Ham hope to tie up the signing of Lucas Neill from Blackburn Rovers before their Premiership match away to Newcastle United tomorrow. They have offered £1.5m for the Australian, who has undergone a medical at Upton Park, but Blackburn do not want to sell until they have signed a replacement.

They would like to take West Ham's Paul Konchesky but have been told he is not for sale, while a £1.5m bid for Stephen Warnock, the Liverpool left-back, has been tabled. Neill was expected to join Liverpool but has agreed to go to West Ham, who will pay him £55,000 a week in wages. He currently earns £30,000 a week at Ewood Park.

Neill's agent, Peter Harrison, said last night: "We held talks with Liverpool and things went well with Rafa [Benitez], but we couldn't come to an agreement over personal terms. We have since spoken to West Ham and we've agreed a two-and-a-half-year deal with them, and Lucas is looking forward to going there. We are now just waiting for Blackburn to give us the green light."

West Ham yesterday completed the £3m signing of Tottenham Hotspur defender Calum Davenport. The 24-year-old agreed a three-and-a-half-year deal. He returns to the club where he spent two months on loan at the start of the 2004/05 season.

Birmingham City, meanwhile, yesterday claimed that they had rejected a £4m bid from West Ham for central defender Matthew Upson. The 27-year-old wants to leave Birmingham although the club wants £6m for his services.

Spurs may allow Mido to leave on loan but only if Celta Vigo are prepared to meet his £40,000-a-week wages. They were last night in talks with Benfica over the signing of defender Ricardo Rocha to replace Davenport. Spurs have now offered €5m (£3.3m) for the 28-year-old but the Portuguese club want €7m.

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