Teams: Portugal, SL Benfica, Manchester United
Sporting want Newcastle to return Viana
March 11, 2005
LISBON (AFP) - Sporting Lisbon want Newcastle to agree to return their former midfielder Hugo Viana, who is currently on a one-year loan with the Portuguese first division side, the director of the club said.
Paulo Andrade added the club may be willing to sell its international goalkeeper Ricardo Pereira, who has recently been linked to Arsenal, if the price was right.
"Of course Hugo Viana is an important player for Sporting. We are interested in him," he told Portuguese daily Correio da Manha. "But we are not, nor could we, commit any extravagances."
The 22-year-old Portuguese international joined Sporting from Newcastle in June 2002 for 8.5 million pounds (12.2 million euros/16.3 million dollars) but struggled to find his form in the English Premiership.
He rejoined his former Portuguese club for one year at the start of the current season, where he has become a regular feature on the pitch, having scored six goals in 22 games.
Before returning to Sporting, Viana signed a one-year extension to his Newcastle United contract which could keep him at St James' Park until the end of the 2007/08 season.
Under the terms of the loan agreement, Sporting have an option to purchase the player in the summer of 2005.
Viana, the European Young Player of the Year in 2002, told state-owned television RTP he would like to leave the Magpies and return to Portugal.
"I was not happy there and here I have been. If I could stay here I would be very pleased," he said in an interview with the station.
But Sporting is unlikely to be able to afford the kind of fee Newcastle would accept, as the English side has hinted it will not let Viana go easily.
"Hugo Viana is a very talented player and we paid a lot of money to bring him to Newcastle. We would be foolish not to have a look at him again before a decision is made," Newcastle chairman Freddie Shepherd said last month.
Regarding Ricardo, who scored the winning penalty in Portugal's 6-5 shoot-out win over England during the quarter-finals of Euro 2004, the Sporting chief said: "We understand that there are many clubs interested in Ricardo, who is one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
"But until now we have not received any concrete proposal. Of course we do not want to lose any important player, but if a very good offer were to emerge, of course we could not afford the luxury of refusing it," he added.
Portuguese media reported last week that Arsenal had approached Sporting about the possibility of hiring Ricardo at the end of the current campaign.
Updated on Friday, Mar 11, 2005 9:31 am EST