Last updated : 24 January 2003 By Editor
All the latest on the Bellion pantomime.

United have rejected Sunderland's allegation that they have unsettled winger David Bellion.

Black Cats chairman Bob Murray accused United of "shabby" behaviour in the course of an approach for the Frenchman.

A club statement read: "We formally contacted Sunderland in December on the basis that David Bellion was going to be out of contract this summer and with the intention of establishing whether we could reach agreement with the club on a deal for the end of the season.

"We have played no part in making the player feel disaffected with Sunderland and at no time have we made an illegal approach for him.”

Meanwhile the Times reports:
David Bellion, the Sunderland centre forward, last night said that he will reject Manchester United’s advances this summer in the wake of the bitter dispute between the clubs. United have been reported to the FA Premier League by Bob Murray, the Sunderland chairman, over their approach for Bellion, who now hopes to advance his career by returning to France.

It is possible, however, that this stance is the latest bartering tool in the complex relationship between the player, Mike Morris — his English representative — United and Sunderland. Morris pointed out that under Fifa regulations, Sunderland could expect to receive only about £120,000 in compensation should Bellion move overseas when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Morris was responding to Murray’s claims that Bellion had been left “mentally and physically unsettled” after United’s interest, first expressed by Peter Kenyon, the chief executive, last month. Since then, the 20-year-old has refused offers of a new deal, suffered from a series of “mystery” injuries and eight days ago walked out of the National Sports Centre in Lilleshall, where he was sent for tests, saying that his mother was ill.

“David is very upset,” Morris said, “but he has to get on with it and he will be totally committed to Sunderland for the rest of the season. But playing for United was his dream and now he feels it has collapsed. He is out of contract at the end of the season and wants to return to France. If that happened, with it being an overseas transfer, there is a fixed compensation payment set out by Fifa and that would be around £120,000.”

“Bob Murray has told me he is asking £2.5 million down and a further £2.5 million on games” for Bellion. Were he to move to another Barclaycard Premiership club — and Liverpool and Arsenal, who both have French managers, have made firm inquiries — a transfer tribunal would rule on compensation, because Bellion was 18 when he arrived in the North East.

In the Mirror Tranmere blast Sunderland as hypocrites for their stance with United:

Sunderland chief Bob Murray has been branded a hypocrite who is "shabby, disrespectful and despicable" in an amazing war of words with Tranmere.

Chairman Murray sparked fury from Rovers - after accusing Manchester United of unsettling French star David Bellion and trying to poach him - because his own club is being probed for illegally tapping Sean Thornton from the Merseyside outfit.

The under-pressure Sunderland chief's comments were greeted with amazement by Rovers - for they are convinced Murray broke FA rules when he lured Irish midfielder Thornton to the Stadium of Light in the summer.

Tranmere say they are still awaiting a ruling on the row from the FA legal department, but chairwoman Lorraine Rogers said: "Having unsettled one of our young players last year by approaching him and offering him a contract with Sunderland before he was finished his contract at Tranmere, it is interesting to see the Sunderland chairman condemn similar behaviour when he is on the receiving end.

"We are still waiting the FA legal department's ruling on the illegal approach to our player.

"I hope they agree with Bob Murray's view that this behaviour is, to use his own words, shabby, despicable, disrespectful, arrogant and unprofessional."