x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Knight and Ricketts to shore up Bolton defence

Gary Megson strengthens defence, but Rafa Benitez's rearguard options at Liverpool could soon be depleted.

Zat Knight, left, is pictured for Aston Villa against Bolton in 2007. He signed for the Wanderers yesterday.
Zat Knight, left, is pictured for Aston Villa against Bolton in 2007. He signed for the Wanderers yesterday.

Bolton yesterday signed Aston Villa centre-half Zat Knight and Hull full-back Sam Ricketts as manager Gary Megson sets about tightening up a defence which shipped 57 goals last term. "We are really pleased that we could complete the deals," said Megson. "Both players had other offers to consider and I am sure they will fit in to the squad."

With only Gary Cahill's back-four place secure, 6ft 6ins Knight looks set to compete with Danny Shittu at centre-back, while Ricketts, 27, provides further competition at full-back. The duo - who both penned three-year deals - arrive for undisclosed fees and join fellow newcomers, Sean Davis and left-back loan signing Paul Robinson. Only three weeks after bringing in £17million (Dh102.5m) right-back Glen Johnson, Rafa Benitez's rearguard options at Liverpool could soon be depleted, if right-back Alvaro Arbeloa's agent is to be believed.

Manuel Garcia Quilon has said Arbeloa is poised for an imminent £4.5m return to Real Madrid. "Discussions with Real are not over and I expect a solution early next week," said Quilon. Benitez has lost Martin Skrtel (hamstring) and Fabio Aurelio (knee) for their opening Premier League games, but he could still be tempted to cash in on Arbeloa as the utility man enters the final year of his contract.

Tottenham's Harry Redknapp believes convincing former Arsenal captain, Patrick Vieira, to return to England at White Hart Lane is achievable. The 33-year-old enforcer is out-of-favour at Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan, and Redknapp believes a deal can be reached. "I'm still interested in Patrick, I would like him," said Redknapp, who added: "He's a fantastic player and he wants to play here."

With a clutch of top English and European teams forming a queue for Aston Villa winger Ashley Young, 24, manager Martin O'Neill insists not even a record British transfer fee would tempt him to sell his prized asset. "There has been no thought about selling him," said O'Neill. "If somebody came in with £50m, I would not do it. I could not be more strong on this. He's not going anywhere." Manchester City lost 1-0 to the Kaizer Chiefs in the final of the Vodacom Challenge in South Africa and suffered two injuries in their backline. Javan Vidal, the reserve right-back, was take off on a stretcher and captain Richard Dunne was replaced after clashing with teammate Shay Given.

Meanwhile, Sir Alex Ferguson has set new striker Michael Owen a 15-goal target for his debut season at Manchester United. Ferguson's free transfer signing of the injury-prone forward had initially raised eyebrows, but Owen has settled in well, scoring two goals in three games on the Red Devils' pre-season tour of the Far East. "If he plays 25 games for me this season I think we'll get 15 goals," said Ferguson.

emegson@thenational.ae