Romario ready to return to Brazil

Romario, Brazil's World Cup striker, is to leave Barcelona and return home to join Flamengo. His departure for a fee of £4m will end a growing rift with his coach, Johan Cruyff, who has publically criticised the player and his fellow forward, Hri sto Stoichkov.

The chairman of Flamengo, Kleber Leite, said yesterday that he had reached financial agreement with the Spanish champions for Romario's transfer to the Rio de Janeiro club. "Romario will be back in his own country within a maximum of 48 hours," Leite said.

Barcelona, who comprehensively outplayed Manchester United in the European Champions' League, suffered a 5-0 humiliation away to Real Madrid at the weekend - a result that Cruyff largely blamed on his leading players.

Cruyff said that the Bulgarian, Stoichkov, recently voted the European Footballer of the Year but sent off against Real for stamping, was "saturated with praise and prizes".

Of Romario, he said: "I want the best from my players. If Romario is not happy here and want to go home, he no longer interests me." He added that the Brazilian could leave Barcelona without paying the club compensation for cutting short his contract.

Barcelona's top players would be "replaced by others" if they could not accept their responsibilities, said Cruyff, adding: "We can lose as we did in Athens in the European Cup against Milan last year, but the worst thing is the attitude of the players on the pitch."

Reports that Romario, who has scored only four goals this season after a dazzling 30-goal first campaign for the Catalans last year, was unhappy and wanted to return to Brazil for personal and family reasons appeared in Spanish newspapers last week. Leite arrived in Barcelona at the same time, and confirmed he wanted to sign the forward who played an influential role in Brazil's World Cup triumph last year.

Barcelona's assistant coach, Carlos Rexach, said that Romario had been negotiating improvements in his contract with the club before Christmas, and his decision to leave had been unexpected. "We were all taken by surprise when he came back from Brazil and started talking about the possibility of leaving," he said. "When a player tells you clearly he wants to go, you can't tie him down. You have to understand him and look for a solution."

n The Parma striker, Faustino Asprilla, is to return from Italy to his native Colombia this week to face questioning over the alleged illegal possession of firearms. Prosecutors in Colombia are investigating an incident on New Year's Eve in which the World Cup player was reported to have been found drunk in a bar brandishing two pistols and provoking other customers. They plan to question Asprilla, who has denied the accusations, on 12 January.

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