Tigana finally gets his man


Fulham will break their record transfer fee when they complete the £4.5 million sterling signing of the French Under-21 international Steed Malbranque from Lyon today.

The Belgian-born attacking midfielder was in London yesterday and finalised personal terms to join the newly-promoted Premiership side.

The former French youth team captain needs to complete a medical for the transfer to go ahead.

Fulham's managing director Michael Fiddy said: "We are delighted that Malbranque should choose to join Fulham. He will be a fantastic addition to the squad."

Despite Malbranque's imminent arrival it has been a summer of failure for Fulham in the transfer market as manager Jean Tigana has had bids for West Ham's Frederic Kanoute and Anderlecht's Jan Koller turned down.

Also, when they were on the verge of signing John Arne Riise from Monaco, Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier showed no solidarity to his compatriot by stealing him from under Tigana's nose.

This time though, Tigana has got his homme and the 21-year-old, who made his debut for Lyon three years ago, will bolster a club which makes its first appearance in the top flight since 1968, starting with the match against the champions Manchester United.

Malbranque, Tigana's sole first-team signing of the summer, made over 50 appearances for Lyon but said he grew increasingly frustrated with French league football.

"There are plenty of French players in England and I am sure I can be a success. I fee l the time is now right to move."

Malbranque was courted by Arsenal two years ago but felt the time was not right to leave. He was recommended to Fulham by Tigana's assistant Christian Damiano, who was manager of the French Under-18 team when Malbranque was captain.

Coventry City striker John Hartson continues to be a target for Celtic. The Glasgow giants have made four separate attempts to take the 26-year-old striker north of the border and Parkhead boss Martin O'Neill is once again interested in taking the former Wimbledon forward to the Scottish Premier League.