Alex McLeish still holding out for Bobo Balde despite discouraging signals
Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish has said he is unlikely to do any more transfer business before the window closes on Monday if he can conclude the on-going Bobo Balde saga – but unconfirmed reports coming out of Scotland claim the defender has rejected Blues’ offer.
McLeish is keen to bring the Celtic defender (pictured), who has been made available for a free transfer by Hoops manager Gordon Strachan, to St Andrew’s but the move had been delayed because the 32-year-old Frenchman is in dispute with the Scottish Premier League club.
Balde, who had agreed personal terms with Blues, was holding out for a pay-off from Celtic but it was reported in Glasgow last night that the Guinea international had eventually decided to turn down McLeish’s approach because his family was settled in Glasgow.
McLeish admitted yesterday he has looked at alternatives, although he refused to comment on speculation he was keen on signing Walsall defender Anthony Gerrard, who handed in a transfer request on Wednesday.
“We are running out of time,” McLeish said yesterday afternoon. “We just have to do what we do and if we run out of time we have to get on with it. We have good players here and we have strengthened the squad, but I don’t have anyone ready made to come in.
“We have looked at a thousand other centre backs but I only want to bring in one I feel will strengthen the squad.
“I don’t want to say yes or no about a particular player because I may disappoint a player who may be reading this. I am better not to make any comment on that.”
A central defender may have been high on his list of priorities throughout the summer but McLeish realises he still needs a central midfield player as well after injuries to Mehdi Nafti and Damien Johnson.
McLeish has brought Sebastian Larsson in off the right flank to partner Lee Carsley and gave debuts to Kemy Agustien and 16-year-old Jordon Mutch at Southampton on Tuesday night. Agustien struggled in his first game and McLeish is reluctant to over burden Mutch at the start of his career.
“If I get Balde it will probably be the end of the activity for now, but it smacks of the January window when I didn’t get a centre half and I turned to a midfielder at the last minute,” McLeish said.
“I would have liked both but I turned to a midfielder with 24 hours to go and I missed out. It is kind of deja vu. I could do with another midfielder. We do have Mehdi to come back and Damien, but he is two or three months away.
“Whether I can do a short term fix right now I don’t know. A permanent transfer is probably not practical because of the players I have to come back.
“I am hoping Agustien can make an impact here. He is still untried in this country and that is why we got him on loan with a view to a transfer. As for young Jordon Mutch, I can’t keep looking to him, a 16-year-old, to get us into the Premier League.”
McLeish revealed Johnson was back amongst the squad after his back operation and said he felt the surgery would add years to Northern Ireland international’s career.
Club captain Johnson has struggled with his back for some time and finally broke down completely during the pre-season our of Austria. He was sent straight home to see a specialist and has been recovering ever since after the surgery.
However, McLeish said he had now started to do some rehabilitation work, although he was still months away from a full return.
“It will be eight to ten weeks before he starts training with the guys again” he said. “He has come in and is walking gingerly at the moment, but he is back on the training ground and in the gym, and I think he is delighted to get out of the house and start mingling with the lads again. We are pleased to see him around the place again.
“He had quite a solid season last year and played the majority of the games after I arrived, and to a good level, but his back was always troubling him. Hopefully the fact he has had something done about it now will add three or four more years to his career. He has had hard luck at times because he is a little warrior and will pick up these injuries.”
- Former Birmingham striker Walter Pandiani is negotiating a return to the Premier League, according to his agent.
The 32-year-old from Uruguay is currently at Spanish side Osasuna and has been linked with Fulham and West Ham.
Eugenio Botas, agent for the player nicknamed ‘The Rifle’, said: “We are in talks with several English clubs.”