BY PHIL SHAW
Kevin Keegan continued his unilateral assault on the transfer market yesterday, taking Newcastle's outlay to pounds 10m in the space of 48 hours when he paid Queen's Park Rangers pounds 6m for their England striker, Les Ferdinand.
Another comparable transaction may take Paul Ince from Manchester United to Milan, officials of Internazionale having last night agreed a fee for Ferdinand's international colleague. Mark Draper, valued at pounds 4m by Leicester, is earmarked as Ince's replacement if the midfielder accepts Inter's terms.
Inter had a pounds 3m offer for Ince turned down earlier this week, but were given permission to talk to him last night after a meeting with United's chairman, Martin Edwards. "However, there are still a number of details to be resolved," Edwards said. Ince, who signed a three-year contract last year, had played down prospects of an Italian move in an interview in the club magazine only last week.
"I think if I was going to Italy I would have gone last year when I had the contract dispute with the club," he said. "Now I don't think about it. I've signed a three-year contract and there's no reason for me to go. It's such a great club - the lads are fantastic and you've got everything here in Manchester."
Inter say they expect the transfer to go through today but a spokesman admitted: "The deal has not been officially completed yet because the player himself has not yet signed."
Ferdinand's signing of a four-year contract at Newcastle followed hard on the heels of the capture of Wimbledon's Warren Barton - on whom Keegan lavished a Premiership record for a defender of pounds 4m. The fee equals the highest sum paid by a British club, although Andy Cole was valued at pounds 7m at the time of his move from Newcastle to Manchester United, the deal also involving the pounds 1m-rated Keith Gillespie.
Ferdinand's decision to join Newcastle disappointed Aston Villa, the only other club who agreed to meet Rangers' asking price. Villa are now likely to renew their efforts to pip Everton and Liverpool for Stan Collymore, for whom Nottingham Forest are demanding pounds 8.5m. Britain's first pounds 10m player may, it seems, be only months away.
Whereas Cole and Collymore are aged 23 and 24 respectively, Ferdinand will be 29 later this year. By the time his contract at St James' Park is up, Newcastle would recoup only a fraction of their expenditure, a factor Keegan clearly felt was outweighed by the newcomer's value to a club intent on emulating Blackburn's "chequebook championship".
"You might think pounds 6m is a lot of money but this guy is worth every penny," Keegan said. "He has nothing to prove to anyone in the Premier League, except what he wants to prove to himself, and we'll certainly give him that stage."
As a former painter and decorator, Ferdinand is better acquainted with mantelpieces than the mantle he is about to inherit. From Wor Jackie Milburn through Malcolm Macdonald, aka Supermac, to Net King Cole, the wearer of Newcastle's No 9 shirt has held a special place in Tyneside affections.
Having scored 24 League goals for Rangers last season, Ferdinand should have few problems following suit, though he stressed that he was not "an out-and-out scorer", but someone capable of creating chances for others. His motive for up-rooting from his native London was simple, he said: "Success. Looking at the sides who can win things in the next few years, you have to say we're top of the tree."
The selling manager, Ray Wilkins, bemoaned the departure of "a good friend", but said Rangers were receiving "a massive fee", the bulk of which he believed would be made available for team-building.
There should be a windfall, too, for Hayes, the Diadora League part-timers who sold Ferdinand to Rangers for pounds 30,000 in 1987. Under a clause entitling them to 10 per cent of any sell-on fee, they expect a cheque for pounds 600,000.
More football, page 39Reuse content