Newcastle united last night abandoned a seemingly muddled and one-sided attempt to sign West Ham United captain Lucas Neill after the east London club said they were "astonished" by talk of any move.
Just hours after Joe Kinnear, Newcastle's manager, had spoken of taking the Australian full-back on loan until the end of the season, a Newcastle spokesman said: "With regards to Lucas Neill, West Ham United have made it clear he is a player they value as a highly important member of their squad and who they have no desire to sell. Newcastle United respect West Ham's position and will therefore not be pursuing this matter."
This was all news to West Ham, who released a statement on the club's website, saying: "West Ham would like to make it clear that Lucas Neill is a contracted West Ham United player and that we have received no approach from any club for his services, including Newcastle United.
"We are astonished by reports that a Premier League manager has claimed contact with one of our players."
Earlier Kinnear had spoken of the move as if it were well under way. "It would be a loan until the end of the season," he said. "Being happy to match his wages would probably be one of the reasons why we are taking him, or probably one of the reasons why they want to get rid of him."
Yesterday Kinnear also said that Newcastle had bid £5m for the Rennes midfielder Stephane Mbia.
"He's the nearest thing I've seen to Patrick Vieira," Kinnear said of 22-year-old Mbia. "He is a monster, 6ft 3in, powerhouse, box to box. I would hang my hat on him from what I have seen on him." When asked how much he had seen of Mbia, Kinnear said he had not seen him in the flesh, only on video. An agent in France, whom Kinnear trusts, has recommended the player.