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Clubs bid, keeper Brad Guzan waits
by Ridge Mahoney, January 29th, 2008 6:30AM
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Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan is in back in the U.S. training camp, but for how long?

He returned from a trial with Glasgow Celtic yet could be on the move again shortly, as numerous clubs are bidding for his services. A source with knowledge of the process confirms Arsenal and Aston Villa have tendered offers in addition to Celtic; a Scottish newspaper, The Scotsman, states Liverpool and French club Auxerre are also in the hunt. Arsenal scouts watched Guzan play in MLS last season, and scouts from several teams observed his second-half performance last October against Switzerland.

Calls to Guzan's agent, Richard Motzkin, were not returned. Guzan has declined to answer transfer queries directly, other than to say, "I let my agent handle all that," after the USA-Sweden game Jan. 19. The European transfer window closes Thursday.

Work permit rules in Scotland are the same as in England, since applications are processed by the Home Office, which regulates immigration and visa issues in the United Kingdom. Since Guzan cannot qualify for a British work permit -- he has played only one competitive match, against Colombia in the Copa America, in the past two years -- a club would have to make a strong case to have the permit issued on appeal.

Most European leagues restrict teams to a certain number of non-EU players, but in Britain, each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Usually appeals are successful, but not always.

Nashat Akram, a star on the Iraqi teams that won the Asian Cup last year and finished fourth in the 2004 Olympic soccer tournament, had his appeal denied on the grounds Iraq's national team is not ranked in the top 70. Its two-year average rank is 71st. Bobby Convey's proposed transfer to Tottenham fell apart, though he did earn a permit after being signed by Reading in 2004.

Celtic has denied reports of starting keeper Artur Boruc, who started for Poland in the 2006 World Cup, being signed to a new deal in advance of a move, possibly to AC Milan, this summer.

One of the criteria used in the work-permit process is a player's salary, and so if several British clubs are bidding for his services, his proposed salary as well as the transfer fee would escalate.

At Villa, starting keeper Scott Carson is playing on loan from Liverpool, and the situations at both clubs are somewhat murky.

Liverpool starter Pepe Reina, like manager Rafael Benitez, is Spanish, and American club owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have tried to tamp down tensions between them and Benitez while finalizing details of a restructuring of the team's finances and stadium project. That process has been completed but Liverpool is drifting out of the top four places as Benitez chafes under what he believes are unrealistic financial restrictions.

Villa is owned by American entrepreneur Randy Lerner, whose backing of manager Martin O'Neill has helped lift the Birmingham club into the top six of the Premier League. If Villa stipulated Guzan would be its No. 1 keeper and Carson will return to Liverpool when his loan ends, that could sway the tribunal -- a six-person entity made up of former coaches, managers and executives and Home Office officials -- to approve his permit.

The club would also likely submit letters of recommendation from managers and established Premier League players, and there are numerous American teammates of Guzan in the latter category.

At Arsenal, German international Jens Lehmann turned down a transfer to Borussia Dortmund and remains the backup to Manuel Almunia. In an appeal, Arsenal would bring considerable clout to the proceedings but would have to eventually move one of those keepers to make a strong case for signing Guzan.

In the past, work permits were reviewed annually, but under current rules, except in special cases, a permit issued is valid for the duration of the players' contract, so Guzan wouldn't have to play in a certain number of competitive internationals to remain eligible.

 



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