Arsenal in last-gasp attempt to capture Alonso
Published 02/09/2008 | 07:50
Arsenal were last night desperately trying to sign Xabi Alonso before the transfer window closed after submitting an improved offer, thought to be around £14m, for the Spanish international midfielder.
Earlier the Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, had insisted Alonso was not for sale but it is understood that he was always prepared to do a deal if his valuation was met.
The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, who rejected Cardiff City's attempt to take Aaron Ramsay back on loan, has played a delicate game of brinkmanship in trying to secure Alonso, whom he wants to partner Cesc Fabregas in central midfield. Wenger regards the 26-year-old as a player who can add the experience and steel which have been missing from his team. A bid of £12m was rejected last month as Wenger hoped to capitalise on Liverpool's attempts to sign Gareth Barry from Aston Villa.
It was a busy day as Benitez attempted to balance the books. Liverpool completed the £8m purchase of the Espanyol winger Albert Riera, who has signed a four-year deal, and also secured two teenagers: 18-year-old Brazilian striker Vito Flora on a free transfer from Botafogo and another 18-year-old, Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi from MTK Hungaria.
They sold Steve Finnan to Espanyol for just £1m, with the full-back signing a two-year deal while the Ukrainian striker Andrei Voronin returned to the Bundesliga with a season-long loan at Hertha Berlin. The German club also signed the Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo. Benitez was, meanwhile, trying to offload Jermaine Pennant, although the winger, who had hoped to switch to Blackburn Rovers, was resisting a £4m move to Stoke City.
Across Stanley Park, Everton were attempting to pull off one of the biggest deals of the final day with an astonishing £12m bid for the Standard Liège defender Marouane Fellaini. The fee for the 20-year-old, born in Belgium to Moroccan parents, would be a club record. He starred in Standard's recent Champions League tie against Liverpool and the Everton manager David Moyes, who travelled to Belgium to watch Fellaini in action on Sunday, wants to play Felliani as a holding midfielder.
Everton confirmed the signing of Louis Saha, with initially no fee payable to Manchester United, although that will change depending on appearances, while the 34-year-old goalkeeper Carlo Nash arrived from Wigan Athletic on a free transfer. However, Everton failed with a £3.5m bid for Reading's Stephen Hunt and were frustrated in their attempts to secure a work permit for the Nigerian winger Victor Obinna after an appeal hearing.
Chelsea were also frustrated. Having missed out on Robinho, pulling out of the bidding after Manchester City's offer, they appear to have failed in their attempts to sell Paulo Ferreira to West Ham United, with the Portuguese international not keen to switch to Upton Park. Talks were held after West Ham sold the left-back George McCartney to Sunderland for £6m. The 26-year-old will be reunited with Anton Ferdinand which means West Ham have taken £13m off Sunderland in the last week. McCartney had been the subject of a Sunderland bid earlier in the summer but was persuaded to sign a new contract instead. However, his partner has not settled in London and he becomes Roy Keane's 10th summer signing, the outlay being approximately £36m.
On Tyneside speculation was rife that Joey Barton was on the move. But that appeared to be generated by his agent Willie McKay with the midfielder, who was at St James' Park to watch the reserve team match between Newcastle United and Sunderland, insisting he wanted to stay in the North-east. Portsmouth had been linked with a bid. At the same time there was no official confirmation from Newcastle that the Deportivo La Coruña striker, Xisco was arriving in a £7.7m deal with £5.7m up front. Valencia also said that Ignacio Gonzalez, a 26-year-old Uruguayan international midfielder, would be spending the season on loan at St James' Park.
Spurs, who announced the £12.5m arrival of Roman Pavlyuchenko from Spartak Moscow, also finally completed the £8.5m signing of Vedrun Corluka from Manchester City, with the 22-year-old Croat signing a six-year deal. They were in talks to secure the 24-year-old striker Sergio Garcia from Real Zaragoza for £9m but may have lost out to Real Betis. That blow was softened, however, with Frazier Campbell's arrival on loan from Manchester United, which derailed Hull City's £7m bid for the striker. Spurs' attempts to sign another Zaragoza striker, Diego Milito, which had looked likely earlier in the day, failed with the Argentina international rejoining his former club Genoa.
The Premier League newcomers were all busy. Hull secured the Rangers striker Daniel Cousin, signed the Crystal Palace midfielder Tom Soares for £1.5m and also captured Sunderland's Paul McShane on loan with a view to a permanent £2m deal, but a move for Fulham's Seol Ki-Hyeon foundered on issues regarding the Korean's work permit. Stoke re-signed their former defender Danny Higginbotham, for just over £2m, although a £6m move for Cardiff City's Joe Ledley was rejected.
West Bromwich Albion signed their third player from the Eredivisie with Ryan Donk arriving from AZ Alkmaar on a season-long loan, with a view to a permanent deal. The central defender joins his Netherlands Under-21 team-mate Gianni Zuiverloon and Swedish defender Jonas Olsson at The Hawthorns.
Fulham, who signed the winger Julian Gray from Coventry City on a season-long loan, released Alexei Smertin and the Russian was in talks with Cardiff while striker Collins John joined Dutch club NEC Nijmegen on a free transfer.
Portsmouth signed the Algerian international Nadir Belhadj from Lens on a season-long loan while Blackburn Rovers signed goalkeeper Mark Bunn from Northampton Town.