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Meira transfer saga rolls on
Sunday 18th June 2000

Fernando Meira has reportedly signed a five-year deal with Benfica – but may never play for the Lisbon giants.

The Portuguese youth international has twice signed contracts with Italian clubs without the permission of his current team, Vitoria Guimaraes.

"He has a bad habit of signing contracts with everybody," said Guimaraes chairman Pimenta Machado.

Meira walked out on the club towards the end of last season, claiming the management lacked ambition.

But the 22-year-old will not be allowed to play for Benfica unless Guimaraes are prepared to negotiate a transfer fee. Even then, the justice department of the Portuguese FA will have to bless the deal.

Meira has attracted interest from a number of clubs, including English Premiership side Newcastle United. Magpies manager Bobby Robson watched the elegant central defender play against Sporting Lisbon last term.

In May, Meira put pen to paper on lucrative contracts with Vicenza and Udinese – at the same time.

The clubs did not appreciate his tactics and both refused to finalise a deal. Now the Italian FA has banned Meira from playing in the country.

The incident has a precedent. Figo, the Portuguese midfielder now at Barcelona, used a similar ploy to negotiate a deal in 1995 when he signed for both Parma and Juventus. That move backfired too – both clubs washed their hands of Figo and dragged him through the courts.

Benfica, it seems, have enough problems already. A general meeting at the Stadium of Light last night ended in chaos when the police were called in to remove protestors complaining about the sacking of star forward Joao Pinto.

Board members had hoped to discuss the club’s budget and the formation of public limited companies to handle basketball and cycling interests. But the protestors would not allow the meeting to proceed and resisted attempts by security men to eject them.
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