Inter land Ince and chase Cantona

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The Independent Online
Paul Ince will today become the most expensive British footballer - and Internazionale, who are to pay Manchester United pounds 8m for the England midfielder, still hope to re-unite him with Eric Cantona in Milan.

After announcing that the Italian club had agreed a three-year deal with Ince - reputedly worth pounds 2m a year to the player - their president Massimo Moratti intimated that he would try again to prise Cantona from Old Trafford. He also said that Ince had recommended Lee Sharpe to Inter.

Moratti admitted that he would also like to buy Roberto Baggio, who is expected to join Inter's city rivals, Milan, from Juventus, but said: "Weddings normally come from mutual interest. Yet Cantona is to me what Baggio is to Silvio Berlusconi (Milan's owner). It is my goal to have him, and we haven't ruled out the possibility."

Inter's desire to pair Ince and Cantona surfaced in the aftermath of the Frenchman's attack on a spectator at Crystal Palace in January. Their interest in Ince survived his prosecution for allegedly assaulting a fan at the same match - he was acquitted last month - and intensified after Cantona decided to stay at United.

Ince was stunned by Alex Ferguson's willingness to off-load him, and by his declaration that Roy Keane and Nicky Butt were his preferred midfield pairing. The United manager now runs the risk of being accused of a panic reaction to his team's failure to retain the Premiership title.

More than anyone, with the exception of Cantona, Ince was the inspiration behind their successive championships. Despite his jaded look at the end of last season, he is only 27. Moreover, the sum Inter are paying barely buys a top-class striker on the domestic market. Butt, 20, is gifted but unproven over an arduous campaign, while Keane's disciplinary record has tended to mean his missing matches.

As for Inter, who scraped into the Uefa Cup after finishing sixth in Serie A, the signing also appears to be a calculated gamble. Eclipsed by Milan during the 1990s, and with only one championship in 14 years, the two-time European Cup winners have spent heavily but to little effect.

Neither of their last captures from Northern Europe, the Dutch internationals Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk, was successful. Ince, for all his combativeness, is not as technically proficient as Liam Brady and Ray Wilkins, who both played at San Siro, or Frank Rijkaard, with whom Moratti is wont to compare him.

With Stan Collymore close to an pounds 8.5m transfer, Ince's place in the record books may last only 24 hours. The Nottingham Forest striker discussed a move to Everton with the FA Cup winners' manager, Joe Royle, for two hours yesterday. Royle returned from holiday in Australia and drove straight to meet Collymore, who is due to see Liverpool officials today.

David Pleat signed a two-year contract as Sheffield Wednesday's 16th post-war manager yesterday - but with the threat of legal action by Luton Town hanging over him. After failing to agree compensation with Wednesday for the remaining year of Pleat's contract, the Luton chairman, David Kohler, said he was seeking legal advice.

"The last thing I said to David Pleat was that I'd sue him if he took the Sheffield job," Kohler said. "He gave me his word that he wouldn't go if we didn't agree compensation.

"Wednesday are in breach of the rules of the Football League, the Premier League and the FA, which say no club should induce an employee of another to breach his contract."

Pleat, 50, who succeeds the sacked Trevor Francis, said that Hillsborough "smelled right" to him. Chris Waddle, confirming his interest in becoming player-coach, welcomed his former Tottenham manager, and predicted Pleat would encourage "exciting, attacking football".

George Graham, the former Arsenal manager, has expressed his desire to return to the game. Speaking on Radio Five Live, he said: "Success, especially by the big clubs, is almost compulsory and I think jobs are going to be on offer every year."

Football Association officials will meet the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, next week to discuss hooliganism, after clearing Chelsea of crowd misconduct at January's fourth-round FA Cup tie against Millwall.

The big earners

(Estimated top weekly pay packets)

P Ince * (Internazionale) pounds 40,000

P Gascoigne* (Rangers) pounds 20,000

R Gullit (Chelsea) pounds 16,000

E Cantona (Manchester Utd) pounds 15,000

S Collymore* (Liverpool) pounds 15,000

C Sutton (Blackburn) pounds 13,000

A Cole (Manchester Utd) pounds 12,000

A Shearer (Blackburn) pounds 12,000

D Ferguson (Everton) pounds 12,000

D Amokachi (Everton) pounds 11,000

J Barnes (Liverpool) pounds 10,000

Figures do not include one-off signing-on payments

* subject to expected transfer

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