United lead chase for Bale as Young attracts £5m bids

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The Independent Online

Bids of around £5m have been rejected for two of the hottest properties in English football, with Southampton turning down offers from Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur for their left-back Gareth Bale while Watford have rebutted interest from three Premiership clubs for the winger Ashley Young. Improved deals are expected for both players before this month's transfer window closes, however.

Southampton are hoping to head that off by offering Bale, the 17-year-old Wales international, a one-year contract extension which will tie him to the Championship club until 2009. Spurs are thought to have made the opening bid for Bale, of around £3m, with United then offering £5m. It is unlikely that he will leave St Mary's for less than £7m, however, with Arsenal, Newcastle United and Liverpool also monitoring developments. The Premiership leaders remain the favourites to sign him, though.

The contest to sign Young is also intensifying with Adrian Boothroyd, the Watford manager, revealing that he has turned down offers for the England under-21 international. "I have had three Premiership clubs on the phone making verbal bids for Ashley Young, but I have turned them all down," he said. "As it stands today, I absolutely do not see him leaving the club this month. But tomorrow, Ashley might come up to me and say: 'I've had enough.' But he is not daft, and he knows this is the best place for him to be."

Arsenal and Spurs are believed to be leading the chase for Young, with West Ham United also among the clubs interested. Fulham have dropped out of the bidding, as interest has grown, while Charlton Athletic are also keen on Young but do not believe they will sign the player.

Boothroyd added: "If and when the time is right, and he wants to go, he will go. But the price has to be right, and it has to mean the club will be improved."

Elsewhere in the transfer market yesterday, Tore Andre Flo linked up with his former Chelsea team-mates Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet, signing a short-term contract at Leeds. The 33-year-old striker, who has moved from the Norwegian side Valerenga until the end of the season, spent three years at Stamford Bridge before joining Rangers in 2000.

The Flo deal completed a busy day for the struggling Championship side, who also gave short-term deals to Tresor Kandol, who had been on loan from Barnet, and the Espanyol defender Armando Sa, subject to international clearance.

Vincenzo Montella, the Roma striker, is to join Fulham today on loan for six months. Montella, who has won 20 Italy caps and scored twice when they beat England 2-1 in 2002, has a notable goal celebration style and has become known as "L'Aeroplanino" ("the Little Aeroplane").

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