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Gaspart optimistic about deal

7/8/2001

BARCELONA -- River Plate's 19-year-old
Argentine international striker Javier Saviola is poised to join
Barcelona, club president Joan Gaspart said on Friday.

"There have been some significant advances in the last few
hours that have made it very likely that the player will play
for Barcelona next season," Gaspart told reporters.

"His club have told us that they are ready to accept the
terms of the deal we have put to them and we have also reached
an agreement with the player.

"Although it is not 100 percent certain I am confident that
this exceptional player will join the club."

Spanish media reported that River Plate directors, who last
week rejected a $22 million offer from Barcelona for the player,
had accepted a new bid from the Catalan club said to be in the
region of $25 million.

River has been experiencing severe financial difficulties
and the injection of cash promised by the transfer could
alleviate its immediate economic difficulties.

The player told Spanish state television that he was excited
at the prospect of joining Barcelona.

"I am very proud to be going to one of the top clubs in the
world and to have the chance to play alongside so many top
players," he said.

Saviola, nicknamed the Rabbit due to his protruding teeth,
was in the spotlight at the World Youth Cup, scoring 10 goals in
Argentina's impressive run to the final.

He scored a hat trick for the hosts as they beat France 3-1
to reach the semifinals and then notched two more goals in a 5-0
demolition of neighbors Paraguay.

Saviola has already equalled the previous scoring record in
the tournament and has a chance to add to his tally in Sunday's
final against Ghana.

News of Saviola's likely move comes during a week of hectic
transfer activity at Barcelona.

Swedish international defender Patrik Andersson, French
defender Philippe Christanval and Brazilians Fabio Rochemback
and Geovanni have all been officially presented as Barcelona
players.

Argentine international goalkeeper Roberto Bonano has also
arrived in the city to finalize a move to the Nou Camp, although
the club said on Friday that it was awaiting legal confirmation
of his dual Italian nationality before completing the deal.