Last updated : 14 January 2004 By Editor
From the Guardian:

Manchester United want a fee of around £5m for Nicky Butt after reluctantly accepting his transfer request. As a result the England midfielder might have to go on loan for the rest of the season as so few of his admirers are able to afford him.

Butt, 29 next week and currently earning £45,000 a week, as well as lucrative bonuses, would cost a suitor around £16m if he got a five-year contract. That has priced out the likes of Birmingham, Blackburn and Everton, all of whom would love to sign him.

Of the other clubs monitoring his situation, Newcastle have a surplus of midfielders and have made a striker their priority, Middlesbrough have spoken to United but are balking at the financial implications and Manchester City last night added their name to the list of admirers who cannot afford him.

One option is for Butt to secure a loan deal before moving somewhere permanently at the end of the season. He is not thought to want to move abroad, but Celtic or Rangers would be an attraction.

Butt, who would be reluctant to contemplate a move to one of United's rivals, saw the signing of Celtic's Liam Miller as the final straw, having become disillusioned by his lack of matches this season.

The Sun suggests:

Middlesbrough are hot on the trail of Nicky Butt — but Alex Ferguson will try to lure Gareth Southgate as part of the deal.

Late last night, it emerged Butt’s switch to the Riverside could involve Boro centre-back Southgate, 33, moving to Old Trafford. United see him as the perfect replacement for Rio Ferdinand, who faces an eight-month ban for missing a drugs test.

Spurs are also keen on snapping up United schemer Butt — but Boro boss Steve McClaren appears to hold all the aces. Butt, 29, would jump at the chance of linking up again with McClaren, who has coached him at United and with England

Only last month McClaren said: “If Nicky ever becomes available, I will be first in the queue.”

The Telegraph claims Spurs will move for Nicky whilst the MEN trumps them all, suggesting Butt will swap the OT bench for the one at Stamford Bridge, following Ranieri’s comments:

"Butt? Why not? He is not so young but a good, good player. But I don't know. He said he's leaving Manchester because he doesn't play with consistency and, at Chelsea, there are a lot of players.

"The players want to play. I understand that and said the same to my players - try to go together this season then, at the end of the season, if they say they suffer too much then it's okay.

"We are looking always for good players. We don't need anybody, we have 21 players, but I want to look around England and other countries to see if there are some good players.”

Ryan Giggs said of Butt:

“Nicky is a very close friend and I’ll be sad to see him leave if that happens. I know he loves the club and does not really want to leave but I can understand why he put in a request

“Footballers just want to play and I know this is the only reason why he would consider leaving the club. I hope he doesn’t go — but if he does, Old Trafford won’t be the same.”

Sven Goran Eriksson’s right-hand man Tord Grip says a move can lift Butt’s international prospects:

“It is better for him to be playing regularly. He has been an important player for England.”

Meanwhile the Sun warns:

Clubs chasing Nicky Butt should be warned — not many players make an impact once they leave Old Trafford.

· PAUL INCE: The former England skipper was sold to Inter Milan for £7m in 1995. He failed to make much of an impression in Serie A. POST-UTD VERDICT: Flop

· LEE SHARPE: Made more than 200 appearances for United and it was a real surprise when Fergie sold him to Leeds for £4.5m. But he did nothing at Elland Road. VERDICT: Flop

· ANDREI KANCHELSKIS: The Ukrainian winger was a massive Old Trafford favourite and Fergie angered many fans when he sold him to Everton for £5m — but again it was a shrewd move.VERDICT: Flop

· GARY PALLISTER: Ferguson somehow convinced Middlesbrough that a 33-year-old Pallister was worth £2.5m when they sold him back to them — nine years after leaving Boro for £2.3m! VERDICT: Flop

· ANDY COLE and DWIGHT YORKE: Both had just celebrated their 30th birthdays when they were sold to Blackburn for £8m and £2m respectively. Neither has set the world alight at Ewood Park. VERDICT: Jury is out