Transfer news and speculation, 26th January

Harper deal opens the door for Given to leave St James'
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The Independent Football

Shay Given's future at Newcastle is expected to be decided within the next 48 hours and the indications are that the 32-year-old Irish goalkeeper will be leaving St James' Park after 11 and a half years at Newcastle. Steve Harper, No 2 to Given, has been offered a new three-year contract by Newcastle in the past few days and is close to signing it.

It would appear that Harper's signature would pave the way for Given's departure. Given (right) has been the subject of two bids from Manchester City, one of £3m a fortnight ago, and one of £5m a week ago. Newcastle have rejected both, manager Joe Kinnear describing the first bid as "insulting".

City are now preparing another offer, possibly of £7m plus a player – Michael Johnson and Nedum Onuoha have been mentioned as possible makeweights. With Newcastle aware of the depth of Given's disillusion as revealed in the wake of the 5-1 hammering by Liverpool at the end of last month, they are ready to accept the money and provide Kinnear with it to strengthen his team in the transfer market. Some of that may be spent on the 24-year-old Toulouse defender Albin Ebondo.

Depending on the figure agreed with City for Given, Newcastle may also try again to recruit the Rennes midfielder Stéphane Mbia, whom Kinnear called the closest player he has seen to Patrick Vieira. Kinnear suggested that Rennes want double the £5m Newcastle offered 10 days ago.

There is also a belief that Harper's contract deal will be followed by one for Nicky Butt, who was offered an extension in mid-December, along with Michael Owen, and is expected to sign for another 12 months at St James'. Newcastle have so far added only Peter Lovenkrands to a squad Kinnear admits is fragile enough to be relegated.

It is likely that, if Given joins City by Wednesday, both clubs will agree that he will be unavailable that night when City host Newcastle at Eastlands.

Out-of-favour Mullins set to bolster Portsmouth's midfield

West Ham's Hayden Mullins was last night in talks with Portsmouth over a proposed £3m move. The midfielder, who turns 30 in March, has been told the decision to leave Upton Park is up to him and it appears likely that a deal will go through in time for Mullins to make his debut against Aston Villa tomorrow.

Mullins has been at West Ham for more than five years, making him the club's longest-serving player, and signed a new contract earlier this season, but has not been a first-team regular under manager Gianfranco Zola.

West Ham are today due to unveil their record signing, Savio Nsereko, at a press conference today. The 19-year-old German will sign for a fee of £10m, including incentives. The Independent first revealed that West Ham were to sign Savio, who can play as a winger or central striker and arrives from the Italian Serie B side, Brescia, the former club of West Ham's technical director Gianluca Nani.

Jason Burt

Wenger lines up Richards swoop

Arsène Wenger has been linked with a £7m move for the Manchester City defender Micah Richards, who is rumoured to be unhappy at Eastlands. Richards has 11 England caps but has struggled this season and is believed to have a difficult relationship with the City manager, Mark Hughes. Wenger needs to shore up the Arsenal defence and the signing of Richards would add a much needed aerial presence.

Sunderland and Fulham eye Berra

Christophe Berra is expected to leave Hearts this week, with Sunderland and Fulham interested in signing the 23-year-old Scotland defender, who is believed to be valued at £3m. Berra has been linked with a move away from Tynecastle for the past year, with Wolves close to buying him last summer, and it is thought that Hearts' need to sell during the transfer window will mean the tall centre-half moves south.

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