Mystery shrouds Asprilla transfer

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United's board met yesterday but the club made no attempt to end speculation that Faustino Asprilla's pounds 6.7m transfer from Parma was off. The saga of wounded knee is likely to be a long-running one.

Instead of an unequivocal statement that the Colombian had passed a medical last Friday there was silence, fuelling rumours that Asprilla has a serious knee injury. The chief executive, Freddie Fletcher, delivered a terse "no comment".

Reports in Italy and Tyneside have suggested the deal is off, but the mystery was heightened last night when the Department of Employment revealed that it had received a request for a work permit. "Newcastle submitted an application on Monday and we are working on that," a spokesman said.

Parma, too, appear to think the transfer is still in motion. A club spokesman, Giorgio Gandolfi, insisted that Asprilla was in good physical condition when he left Parma last week.

England's preparations for the European Championship have been disrupted by the weather. The coach, Terry Venables, had hoped to hold a squad get- together this month but has abandoned it because so few of his players are available due to the number of FA Cup matches postponed last weekend.

"I'm disappointed," Venables said, "but there is no point calling up players to make up numbers." England's next match is a friendly against Bulgaria at Wembley on 27 March.

Scotland's manager, Craig Brown, has indicated that Duncan Ferguson is in contention for the finals. "If Duncan maintains his good form," he said, "and keeps behaving himself, he is definitely in my thoughts."

This morning the Everton striker learns whether he must serve the remaining seven matches of a 12-match suspension.

Manchester United's Nicky Butt has failed to have a one-match suspension overturned after the FA dismissed an appeal against his sending-off against West Ham.

Sheffield United have made an inquiry about the Danish international Michael Laudrup, whose contract with Real Madrid is coming to an end. The 31-year-old striker's wages of pounds 30,000 a week are a stumbling block.