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It Seems To Me . . .

Bidding war starts for Stern John; Manchester United regrets not wooing Keller.

By Robert Wagman

(Thursday, October 7, 1999) -- Something of a bidding war seems to have broken out for the services of Columbus Crew striker Stern John. He has a year left on his Major League Soccer contract, but the league says it will not stand in the way of John moving to England as early as the day after the MLS season ends for Columbus.

David Platt, manager of British first division side Nottingham Forest, is in Columbus to try to convince the 22-year-old Trinidad & Tobago striker to sign with his club. Platt, who was in Columbus last month, thought it was a done deal. But now Premier League side Watford has begun making serious inquiries about John. Reportedly, Forest is ready to pay MLS a transfer fee of about $2.4 million.

When former New England Revolution player-coach Walter Zenga gave the Revs an ultimatum of sign him to a contract extension, or release him because he had other prospects, those other prospects now seem to be applying for jobs. It appears Zenga has applied for the Costa Rican national team's vacant coaching position. Costa Rican papers say that Zenga threw his hat in the ring to replace Colombian Francisco (Pacho) Maturana, who quit Costa Rica to coach Peru.

Zenga may have some stiff competition. When Maturana quit, Costa Rican Football Association officials say they entered into preliminary discussions with Brazilian coaching legend Mario Zagallo. Zagallo was fired Monday as coach of Sao Paulo based Portuguesa, so he is available.

When Manchester United lost goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, known as "The Great Dane," after last season, reportedly they toyed with the idea of making an offer to American Kasey Keller, whose contract with Leicester City was ending. Instead United brought in Australian Mark Bosnich from Aston Villa.

Now, Man.U. has scored more goals than any team in the Premiership, but because of inconsistent play in the nets has conceded more goals (15) than any other club in the top half of the standings. They have used four different keepers with the season still in its early stages.

United lost the preseason Charity Shield match to Arsenal 2-1, then drew its opening league match with Everton. Bosnich took much of the blame, and then he pulled a hamstring in mid-August and has not played since. So manager Alex Ferguson turned to Dutch reserve goalkeeper Raymond Van der Gouw and looked around for help. That came in the form of Italian Massimo Taibi for whom Ferguson paid Venezia $7.3 million.

Taibi's transfer from Italy, however, came too late and he was ruled out of the Champions League. This left the 36-year-old Van der Gouw as United's goalkeeper for its Champions League matches, with untested 21-year-old Nick Culkin as the backup.

Taibi has been inconsistent in Premier League play. He had a good match against Liverpool, but against Southampton, allowed a weak shot to dribble through his legs, and now he is being heavily blamed for Man U's 5-0 debacle against Chelsea.

Bosnich seems ready to return from his injury. But Ferguson may still go with Taibi. Meanwhile, with Keller playing so well in Spain, a number of British newspapers are wondering if Sir Alex did not outsmart himself by not going after the American.

Robert Wagman’s "It Seems To Me . . ." column appears weekly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at

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