Weah joins Royle's revolution

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The Independent Football

The signing of George Weah and the likely capture of Paulo Wanchope were the clearest indications that Manchester City's Premiership ambitions lay beyond survival, their manager Joe Royle, said yesterday.

The signing of George Weah and the likely capture of Paulo Wanchope were the clearest indications that Manchester City's Premiership ambitions lay beyond survival, their manager Joe Royle, said yesterday.

Weah signed a two-year deal worth an estimated £30,000 a week, five days after his previous contract with Milan was terminated.

The Liberian requires a work permit but, as someone who was voted the best footballer in the world five years ago, this should hardly prove a problem. Wanchope, an unsettled but occasionally inspirational figure at West Ham, is likely to join him within 24 hours.

While Manchester United supporters were queueing around Old Trafford at midnight to buy the new club shirts, over at Maine Road Royle was concluding the deal that would give City fans the kind of names they crave to put on theirs. "These are bold signings," he said. "They are not about survival."

In the afterglow of their return to the Premiership, there was talk of £35m of transfer funds that the City chairman, David Bernstein, would make available. If such figures were true, they have scarcely been touched as Royle, after bringing in Alf Inge Haaland from Leeds for £2.5m, became worn down with negotiations to take the defender Ugo Ehiogu from Aston Villa. This, however, is a statement of intent.

Since Georgi Kinkladze's departure in the wake of City's blackest hour, their relegation to the Second Division in May 1998, wholehearted effort in the shape of Shaun Goater, rather than individual brilliance, has been the key to City's rebirth. But traditionally the Kippax has long been in thrall to individual skills, qualities which both Weah and Wanchope possess.

In Weah's case, the question is for how long? He is 33 and Chelsea, who signed him on loan from Milan last season, chose not to retain his services, despite five goals in 14 appearances, because of his age.

Royle, however, argued that Chelsea "spoke highly of his fitness" and his overall contribution to the club. Weah had been courted by Fulham but, while Jean Tigana could offer him a life in London, Royle had something more tempting: Premiership football. Fulham also baulked at Weah's wage demands.

City have already agreed a fee in excess of £4m for Wanchope, who has been thoroughly overshadowed by Paolo Di Canio since the latter's arrival at Upton Park.

As he proved at Derby when announcing himself with a wonderful goal to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in April 1997, the Costa Rican has flair, but West Ham saw it only fitfully.

City hope to conclude the deal today but Royle warned: "I don't want the Wanchope transfer to develop into a saga like our attempt to sign Ehiogu."

Confusion surrounded Leeds United's efforts to sign the Norwegian international John Arne Riise from Monaco last night after the French club apparently decided to increase their valuation of the player at the last minute. According to Peter Ridsdale, the Leeds chairman, the clubs had earlier agreed on a fee of around £4m for the 19-year-old midfielder, and were hoping to sign him by tomorrow so he would be eligible to play in their Champions' League qualifier with 1860 Munich next Wednesday.

"It appears our valuation of the player now differs from that of Monaco, and unless they lower it then the deal is dead," Ridsdale said last night.

Riise was yesterday quoted in the Norwegian press as being "excited" about the prospect of moving to Elland Road and his mother, Berit, who is also a Fifa-approved players' agent, had indicated that only the formalities remained.

Meanwhile Gordon Strachan's attempt to spend some of the £15m raised by the sale of Robbie Keane and Noel Whelan foundered when Rangers rejected a £4m offer for the winger Neil McCann.

Charlton have signed the Bulgarian international defender Radostin Kishishev for £300,000 from Liteks Lovech on a four-year deal. The fee could rise to £1.8m depending on appearances.

Jesper Blomqvist, who has not played since the European Cup final last year after picking up a knee injury on Manchester United's pre-season tour of the Far East 12 months ago, will need until November to recuperate despite playing half of United's friendly at Shrewsbury.

The Sheffield United manager, Neil Warnock, has suffered a pre-season blow after it emerged his new signing Patrick Suffo is serving a worldwide ban from football.

The Cameroon international, signed from Nantes for £150,000 earlier in the close season, has been banned by Fifa until November following an incident with the French club. Warnock believed the ban only applied to France.

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