West Brom sign enforcer Almeyda

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The Independent Online

With one eye on the transfer window and the other on the relegation trapdoor, Bryan Robson made the first of several expected signings for West Bromwich Albion last night when Matias Almeyda, the Argentinian international midfielder, joined the Premiership's bottom club.

With one eye on the transfer window and the other on the relegation trapdoor, Bryan Robson made the first of several expected signings for West Bromwich Albion last night when Matias Almeyda, the Argentinian international midfielder, joined the Premiership's bottom club.

Almeyda, 31, who arrived at The Hawthorns as a free agent, his contract with the Italian club Brescia having been cancelled by mutual consent earlier this season after only four months, is perhaps politely described as an enforcer. His pedigree includes a Serie A championship with Lazio as well as spells at River Plate, Sevilla, Parma and Internazionale.

Robson, who has seen Albion take one point from six games since he succeeded Gary Megson, fought off late competition from Livorno to make Almeyda his first signing. The player also attracted interest from Crystal Palace, Everton, Espanyol and Bologna after falling out with Brescia's management and supporters. Provided he has maintained his fitness, his debut is likely to come at Bolton Wanderers on New Year's Day.

Almeyda should bring much-needed colour to Albion's monochrome season. Last year, while playing for Inter, he reflected philosophically on the footballer's lot. "Football at this level is fake, it's all a pretend world. We get paid millions to play a game, but we are just pawns who sell ourselves to keep this system going. I am not just Almeyda the footballer. I am Almeyda the person, the father, the farmer."

Among the players being linked with a January switch to Albion are Juninho, who was introduced to English football by Robson during his time in charge of Middlesbrough but has failed to make the anticipated impact at Celtic, and the Liverpool striker Neil Mellor. However, the Albion manager admitted his priority was to shore up the defence.

Albion lost 4-0 at low-scoring Birmingham City on Saturday, and Robson said: "The league table doesn't lie and it shows we have conceded more goals than any team in the Premiership.

"We're seeking to strengthen in January and the back is obviously an area we are looking at."

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