Portsmouth allowed loan and free transfers

Portsmouth yesterday won a partial victory in their battle to have their transfer embargo lifted, as they are now allowed to sign new players but only on loan or as free transfers.

The Premier League agreed to lift the ban on Portsmouth registering any new players after the club, who are bottom of the Premier League, came to an agreement with Italian side Udinese over £3.6m still owed for the transfer of midfielder Sulley Muntari two and a half years ago. Portsmouth were able to prove they have agreed with Udinese a schedule of payments, which resulted in yesterday's ruling from the Premier League.

A Premier League statement read: "The board of the Premier League has today lifted the player registration embargo on Portsmouth Football Club under the conditions that they are limited to signing players on loan or who are available on a free transfer. The Board has taken this action as Portsmouth FC has no outstanding debts to football clubs as of this date."

Portsmouth's executive director Mark Jacob said: "We have been working very, very hard behind the scenes and are delighted the embargo has now been lifted. It will now enable Avram Grant to strengthen the squad where necessary. This is another piece of the jigsaw we are trying to put back together."

The Premier League will also return around £1.6m owed to Portsmouth from television money they had previously withheld.

Grant has to work quickly to strengthen his threadbare squad before the transfer window closes on Monday. His squad is so stretched at the moment he was only able to fill five of the seven substitute spots for Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round win over Sunderland.

Potential transfer targets for Portsmouth include the Egypt striker Emad Moteab, and the Colombia goalkeeper Robinson Zapata, who could arrive from Steaua Bucharest if the England goalkeeper David James moves to Stoke City over the next few days. The Romanian midfielder Razvan Cocis is already believed to have agreed personal terms.

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