Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Max Gradel set for St Etienne switch LATEST

 Max Gradel is expected to complete a move to French outfit St Etienne today after Leeds United accepted an undisclosed seven-figure offer for his services.The move came just hours after fellow Ligue 1 side Sochaux saw a bid of around £2m rejected for the Ivory Coast international, who handed in a transfer request early yesterday after expressing his desire to leave Elland Road in a whirlwind day of developments.Gradel, 23, whose current United deal expires at the end of next season, will undergo a medical and discuss personal terms with St Etienne today – and his move will signal the end of a long-running saga surrounding his future.United say a desire to return to France, where he was brought up, and play at the highest level in his adopted country, prompted Gradel’s decision to demand a transfer.

Several rival Championship clubs, including Nottingham Forest, Leicester City and West Ham United were also keen on signing the wingman, who blasted 18 goals in a stellar 2010-11 campaign.Premiership club West Brom are also believed to have tabled a cash plus player bid which was rejected by the club.

Forest are believed to have recently tabled a beat-the-deadline bid, with big-spending Leicester also thought to be keen on bringing Gradel back to his former club, with Foxes boss Sven Goran-Eriksson known to be an admirer.

West Ham also saw a £2.5m offer rebuffed earlier this summer, as speculation ranged over his future while several top-flight clubs, including Fulham and Newcastle United were rumoured to be watching developments, with Bundesliga outfit Hamburg also thought to have tabled a £2m close-season bid.

The main firm interest appeared to be from Championship clubs and with United unwilling to sell to a second-tier rival and in the light of Gradel’s hankering to head back across the Channel, St Etienne – who – have won the race for his services.

Les Verts have also agreed a deal to sign Romania captain Banel Nicolita and he and Gradel should seal their moves today.

A statement on the St Etienne website said: “ASSE has gone on the offensive. On Tuesday evening, agreements were reached for the arrivals of Romanian midfielder Banel Nicolita and Max-Alain Gradel.”

“Both players, who have been in the sights of St Etienne for several weeks, will on Wednesday undergo the traditional medical before completing the final terms of their contracts with ASSE.”

St Etienne’s squad also includes former Liverpool forward Florent Sinama Pongolle and ex-Sunderland and Fulham star Steed Malbranque, with Les Verts having finished tenth in Le Championnat last term.

Gradel scored 29 goals in 81 appearances for United after initially joining the club on loan from Leicester in October 2009.

The wingman was famously dismissed on the final day of the 2009-10 season in United’s dramatic and never-to-be-forgotten 2-1 promotion-clinching home victory over Bristol Rovers in front of over 38,000 fans at Elland Road in May 2010.

But Gradel became a firm crowd favourite and a real wow with supporters on the club’s return to the Championship last term, a season which culminated in him being named both the fans’ player ofthe year and players’ player of the year and claim his first international cap for Ivory Coast in June

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