Villa tear up unpopular Alpay's contract

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Aston Villa yesterday terminated the contract of Alpay Ozalan, their Turkey international, by mutual consent.

The central defender caused a storm of controversy earlier this month when he goaded David Beckham after the England captain had missed a penalty in the Euro 2004 qualifier in Istanbul. He was then involved in another confrontation with the Real Madrid midfielder in the players' tunnel at half-time.

Alpay, signed for £5.6m from Fenerbahce more than three years ago, was already unpopular with many Villa supporters and was booed during the recent home game with Charlton Athletic.

The Villa chairman, Doug Ellis, said: "In light of recent events, it would have been difficult for Alpay to represent Aston Villa again in the future and the player himself was aware that life in England had become increasingly difficult for him and his family. Therefore, both parties agreed the best course of action was for the immediate termination of his contract, which was due to expire in June 2004."

The 30-year-old became unpopular with England fans for his part in the events during the Euro 2004 qualifier in Istanbul on 11 October. He has since denied being the catalyst for the bad feeling during the match, claiming Beckham swore at him and spat on his shirt's badge.

It was 10 days before Alpay returned to training with Villa, but though he was not even part of the Villa reserve squad for Tuesday's game against Middlesbrough, he was not expected to be sold before the transfer window.

The German side Hertha Berlin and Galatasaray, of Turkey, are expected to lead the chase to sign Alpay.

The Football Association is continuing to sift through documents before deciding what charge to bring against Rio Ferdinand. The Manchester United defender could face a lengthy ban and fine after failing to take a drugs test. The FA, though, are refusing to be rushed into making a decision and are yet to set a deadline for bringing charges.

A spokesman said: "The FA will proceed through all the facts with due diligence before making any decision as to what further steps ... may be taken."