Villa sign pounds 3.5m Yugoslav striker

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The Independent Online
Football

Aston Villa broke their transfer record for the second time in five days yesterday, paying Partizan Belgrade pounds 3.5m for a 21-year-old striker Brian Little, their manager, likened to Andy Gray and Steve Bull. Little's swoop for Savo Milosevic, which is subject to the player being granted a work permit, followed the pounds 2.5m capture of Gareth Southgate from Crystal Palace.

Milosevic, whose sartorial trade mark is a red headband, has amassed 174 goals in 213 games at all levels for Partizan, 79 of them for the senior side over the past three seasons. He has also scored three times in five matches for Yugoslavia since their readmission to the international circuit.

There remains, however, an element of risk in such a high outlay. The standards in the league in which Milosevic's feats were performed have been hit by the breakaway of Bosnian and Croatian clubs. A Uefa ban on teams from Serbia and Montenegro also means he is unproven in European competition.

"It's an expensive deal, but if he produces the goods like we think he can, he'll be worth a lot more," Little said. "He's 6ft 1in and there is something of Andy Gray about him in that he's left-footed and very brave. He's also a real pest in the box, like Steve Bull.

"In Yugoslavia they rate this guy as the best goalscorer they've ever produced. He gets tap-ins, rebounds and headers, as well as spectacular goals."

Little said Villa were "still in the market-place", a fact demon-strated by his attempt to recruit Southgate's former team-mate, Chris Coleman. But Villa's offer for the Welsh international defender fell short of Palace's pounds 4m valuation.

Leaving these shores are Barry Venison, the Newcastle and England player, and Coventry's Mike Marsh, his former Liverpool colleague. Galatasaray, the Turkish club managed by Graeme Souness, last night claimed to have finalised transfers and personal terms for the two midfielders totalling pounds 3m.

Birmingham have confirmed that Jose Dominguez, their former Benfica winger, has returned to Portugal with Sporting Lisbon. The pounds 1.4m fee represents a profit of pounds 1.24m in 15 months for the First Division club, who will also receive 25 per cent of any profit if he moves again.

Hristo Stoichkov, the European er of the Year, is free to leave Barcelona for pounds 4.8m. The volatile Bulgarian has reportedly been targeted by Manchester United as a replacement for Mark Hughes, whose agent has dismissed reports that the striker's switch to Chelsea resulted from an administrative oversight at Old Trafford.

According to Dennis Roach, Hughes delayed signing an extension to his contract because of complications concerning his pension. There had been "no blunders or misunderstandings" and he would always have a "love and feeling" for United, but reduced first-team opportunities had convinced Hughes it was "time to move on".

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