FERGIE JOINS BARMBY RACE
By Jamie Dixon
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Toffees boss Walter Smith has confirmed that the Premiership champions had been in touch with a view to signing the highly-rated, 26-year-old - a move that will greatly frustrate Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier, who looked favourite to sign Barmby, after the player expressed an interest in moving to Anfield.
"There has not been any contact from Liverpool since last week, but Sir Alex Ferguson has called," confirmed Smith. "He told me he was interested in Nick, and he asked to be kept informed about the situation regarding his possible transfer.
"It means Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have all inquired about him."
The former Tottenham player's impressive spell at Everton has seen him resurrect his football career, regaining his place in Kevin Keegan's international squad, and making him one of the hottest properties in English football.
Should United succeed in their bid to snatch Barmby away from Liverpool at the last minute, it will be the second time that Ferguson has stepped in to snap up a talent that was being viewed by the Merseydie club. Last September United managed to steal French defender Mickael Silvestre from under the noses of their bitter rivals.
With Barmby only having one-year left on his contract at Goodison, and with so many top English clubs chasing him, it looks likely that Walter Smith will cash in on the player, rather than risk losing him on a Bosman Ruling free transfer at the end of next season, as the former Middlesbrough man has rejected a new contract with the club.
However, Smith clearly has his own opinion of Barmby's value, having already rejected an initial bid from Liverpool. It's believed that the Toffees boss may be tempted to use United's new-found interest in the player to launch a swap bid for Old Trafford midfielder Nicky Butt, who he is known to be a great admirer of.
Meanwhile, United are being linked with a move for highly-rated Italian international defender Fabio Cannavaro of Parma. Ferguson is reported to have made a £10 million bid for the 26-year-old, who made it into the planetfootball.com Euro 2000 team of the tournament.