Newcastle sign £8.5m Viana – 'the new Figo'

Alan Nixon
Friday 21 June 2002 00:00
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They may not have been able to lure Rivaldo to Tyneside, but Newcastle United are signing the Portuguese Under-21 international Hugo Viana in an £8.5m deal, which makes him the most expensive teenager in British football. The 19-year-old midfield schemer travelled to the North-East to complete a medical yesterday.

His transfer fee eclipsed the £6m Coventry paid Wolves for Robbie Keane in 1999. The Magpies' chairman, Freddy Shepherd, and the agent Paul Stretford had gone to Portugal by private jet to keep their profile low while they discussed a price with Sporting Lisbon. "The general consensus is that he's the best young player in the world at the moment," Shepherd said. "He's a left-sided midfielder, just the player Bobby Robson wants to spearhead our Champions' League bid for next season.

"But, to tell you the truth, we had a few scary moments. Sporting Lisbon had already agreed a fee with Celta Vigo and then Liverpool actually moved in yesterday. However, Douglas and myself were determined to get our man and we kept the Sporting people up through the night."

Viana, who was in Portugal's World Cup squad, was talked into the move despite interest from Liverpool, Chelsea, Celta Vigo and Juventus.Newcastle will play Viana, who has been described as the "new Luis Figo", on the left of central midfield, encouraging him to use his play-making skills.

Liverpool made an offer of £6m; Chelsea were interested, but short of funds; Celta sought a swap deal. Juventus were poised but, tipped off by Stretford, Newcastle moved swiftly.

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