Keane finally set to bring numbers in at Sunderland


SOCCER:ROY KEANE appears to be inching closer to a significant transfer-market breakthrough. It is a week since Tottenham Hotspur accepted Sunderland's €29 million bid for Pascal Chimbonda, Teemu Tainio, Steed Malbranque and Younes Kaboul. Tainio's move has been confirmed while last night Chimbonda was undergoing a medical on Wearside.

Sunderland's manager remains confident of luring at least three of the quartet to the Stadium of Light. "We're virtually there with three of them, if not four," said Keane, who accepts that Kaboul is waiting for possible approaches from rival clubs.

"But there are one or two loose ends to be tied up. One or two of the issues are out of our hands, it's between the players and Spurs. Sometimes players have disagreements with the clubs they're leaving."

Keane who has also made two further bids for unnamed players and continues to covet Tottenham's Darren Bent, is not enjoying the wait. "If you want to meet an impatient person, then I'm one but I've been in the game long enough to know things can drag on a bit," he explained.

"We're also in discussions for one or two other players and I would hope the Tottenham deals will be the done by the weekend and the other couple possibly next week."

Keane has long admired the Reading midfielder Stephen Hunt whose team-mate, James Harper, could well be on the move should Lee Cattermole complete his mooted €4.5 million transfer from Middlesbrough to Wigan.

The England under-21 midfielder was given permission to speak to Steve Bruce yesterday after the clubs agreed a fee.

Gareth Southgate, Middlebrough's manager, has been told he must sell before he can buy and is likely to use the money from Cattermole's anticipated sale to finance a move for Harper.

Meanwhile, Luiz Felipe Scolari has offered the first indication that he will not be easily unsettled by Alex Ferguson's penchant for mind-games by shrugging off suggestions from the Manchester United manager that he may struggle to cope under the pressure built up by Jose Mourinho's successes at Stamford Bridge.

Ferguson claimed earlier this week "there is no one who can improve upon [Mourinho's] record really", adding "I don't know how far that team has got to go" as he surveyed the challenge to come from Chelsea from United's pre-season tour in South Africa.

The Scot had stressed that he was not suggesting the Londoners were "old" but appeared to question whether Scolari would be able to raise the current squad to new heights as he attempts to overthrow the reigning European and Premier League champions.

Scolari refused to be drawn on Ferguson's comments directly after seeing his new team win his first match in charge 4-0 against Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Pharmaceutical yesterday.

Yet, when asked whether Chelsea's experience could help them reclaim the title in the year ahead, the Brazilian said: "I think that I have some players with experience and I have some young boys in my team, but I feel with the blend that we have, yes, we have the experience to win the Premier League.

"I do not feel under any more pressure here than I have at any of the teams I have coached from around the world. It's normal, you know. Normal. For me, it's not different at Chelsea from the times I was coaching other club sides or the national teams of Brazil or Portugal. No difference at all."

Frank Lampard seems no nearer to signing a new long-term contract at the club, with Chelsea insistent that they will not bow to his demands and offer him a five-year deal. The chances of the 30-year-old leaving for Internazionale to be reunited with Mourinho this summer are rapidly receding, though, with some form of compromise likely - probably a four-year deal with an option for a further season .

Elsewhere, Kevin Keegan hopes to have signed a new left-back and a central defender by next Wednesday when his Newcastle United squad head to Mallorca for a pre-season tournament.

While Blackburn's Stephen Warnock has long ranked high on Keegan's shopping list, Vasilis Torosidis of Olympiakos yesterday became the latest in a long line of left-backs to claim he was wanted at St James' Park.

Keegan yesterday confirmed that Michael Owen will again be his captain this season. Owen has one year remaining on his contract and is yet to agree an extension. If no such deal has been struck by January, Owen, who earns around €150,000 a week at the club, will be free to talk to other clubs.

Yet while Keegan is urging his board to deal with the matter, the current impasse probably suits Owen and Mike Ashley, Newcastle's owner, who has made wage restraint the new order of the day on Tyneside.

Owen has always been injury prone and the "sore calf" which kept him out of last Saturday's friendly win at Hartlepool is expected to again sideline him on Saturday when Newcastle visit Doncaster.

Guardian Service