Villa jump the gun over Bellamy and Hughes deal

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The Independent Football

Newcastle United yesterday afternoon denied a claim by the Aston Villa chairman, Doug Ellis, that the two clubs have settled on a fee to take Craig Bellamy and Aaron Hughes to the Midlands.

Newcastle United yesterday afternoon denied a claim by the Aston Villa chairman, Doug Ellis, that the two clubs have settled on a fee to take Craig Bellamy and Aaron Hughes to the Midlands.

Ellis stated that his side had agreed a fee for the Newcastle pair, but a statement from St James' Park indicated that this was not, in fact, the case.

"Despite reports to the contrary, Newcastle United have not agreed any fees with Aston Villa over the sale of Craig Bellamy and Aaron Hughes," a Newcastle spokesman said. "News broke saying the pair were close to completing a move to Villa Park, but Newcastle confirm this report is incorrect and say no fees have been agreed with any club."

It looked as though Villa were poised to make their second and third signings of the summer when they announced that a combined fee had been agreed. Having already wrapped up a deal for Patrik Berger, who will join on a free transfer from Portsmouth in July, the manager, David O'Leary, seemed to have acted swiftly in an effort to make further additions.

Ellis told his club's website: "I have spoken with Freddy Shepherd, the Newcastle chairman on several occasions in the last 48 hours and last night he accepted our cash offer for both players."

However confusion is now blurring the picture, with Bellamy's future once again uncertain. The Welsh striker had a public fall-out with Graeme Souness in January and had been told he will never play for Newcastle again. However, his form since joining Celtic on loan on deadline day has put him in the shop window.

It remains to be seen, whenever he leaves and to whichever club, whether Newcastle succeed in recouping the £6m they paid Coventry. However, they will not lose money on Hughes, who was brought to Newcastle by Kevin Keegan in 1996 and has emerged from the youth ranks to become a first-team fixture over several seasons. The adaptable defender has made more than 250 appearances for Newcastle and won 40 caps for Northern Ireland.

Souness, meanwhile, has warned Laurent Robert to forget about leaving St James' Park for nothing this summer. Robert has suggested, given the deterioration of his relationship with Souness, that Newcastle should give him a free transfer in the closed season, despite a year remaining on his current contract.

But Souness has made it clear the French winger will be back in pre-season training if no buyer is found. "It is up to the chairman to decide how much he wants to sell Laurent Robert for, but what I will say is, if he wants to go for a free, does that mean nobody wants to buy him?" Souness said.

"I can't say that his Newcastle career is over because there might not be a buyer for him, " he added. "If he isn't sold he will return for pre-season training like everybody else."

The Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert will be leaving the club, however, after only one season following his free transfer from Barcelona. Newcastle had an option to sign the 28-year-old for a further two years, but did not take it up after the player's disappointing year.

Kluivert, however, is wanted by a host of Spanish clubs including Valencia, Seville and Real Betis.

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