Last updated : 17 January 2003 By Editor
The Guardian reports:

Robbie Fowler's £7m move to Manchester City collapsed yesterday after the club attempted to persuade Leeds to drop their price to £5m, citing reservations over the player's fitness. Fowler took this as a personal slight and called off the transfer, a decision that could cause irreparable damage to the relationship between the manager Kevin Keegan and his directors.

Keegan said he was "bitterly disappointed" by Fowler's announcement but "we fully respect Robbie's decision".

The manager's mood will not be helped by the chain of events that precipitated the U-turn. City had agreed a £7m deal with Leeds on Monday, of which £4.5m was guaranteed - £2m as a down payment, with £1.25m instalments in July and next January. City would then pay Leeds a further £500,000 after Fowler's first 30 appearances, the same again after his 60th game, with a possible £1.5m to come in performance-related fees.

However, as Keegan was informing supporters at an official dinner at Maine Road yesterday that Fowler had passed his medical and would make his debut at Newcastle tomorrow, the England striker was telling his agent George Scott that he was having serious reservations.

Fowler is said to have been appalled that several of City's directors appeared to have doubts about his long-term fitness and, as such, that the chairman David Bernstein had proposed restructuring the payment schedule.

Fowler, who had agreed terms for a 4-year deal on Tuesday, told his advisers he regarded appearance-related payments as an "insult", believing his prospective employers must feel that his injury problems over the past two years made the transfer a gamble. He said he did not believe City had done enough to make him feel wanted and, though he was impressed with Keegan's selling of the club, he was distinctly unimpressed by the people around the manager.

Where it leaves Keegan's relationship with the board remains to be seen, although it is difficult to imagine he will be anything but furious about the club's role in the farce.