x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Portsmouth buy-out process is on track

Barely a fortnight after passing the English Premier League's "fit and proper" person test, new Portsmouth chairman Sulaiman al Fahim has been forced to publicly refute speculation he is preparing to walk away from the south coast club.

Barely a fortnight after passing the English Premier League's "fit and proper" person test, new Portsmouth chairman Sulaiman al Fahim has been forced to publicly refute speculation he is preparing to walk away from the south coast club. British and Arab press reports have stated al Fahim's failure to submit essential papers to the English FA - which detail take-over funding sources - is evidence the UAE property tycoon is stalling over concluding the buy-out.

However, al Fahim's personal spokesman rubbished the claims. "As far as we're concerned everything is progressing on-track and we're heading towards completion," said Ivo Ilic Gabara. Since Al Fahim Asia Associates - of which al Fahim is the sole owner and chairman - completed due diligence on July 21, Portsmouth have sold the England inter- national Peter Crouch to Tottenham for £10 million (Dh61.6m) and failed with a bid for highly-rated Croatian striker Nikola Kalinic. The Fratton Park side have already lost defenders Glen Johnson, Sol Campbell and Djimi Traore this summer, while acquisitions of the South African midfielder Aaron Mokoena, Irish full-back Steve Finnan and veteran goalkeeper Antii Neimi, 37, have failed to excite supporters.

Al Fahim, speaking to the UAE media, distanced himself from exit claims and reiterated his commitment to the club. "This is a rumour and has nothing to do with reality. I am committed to the deal," he said. Meanwhile, with only 12 days until the new season, Everton manager David Moyes - busy fending off Manchester City's advances for Joleon Lescott - has revealed concerns about Marouane Fellaini's fitness.

A summer virus has seen the lanky midfielder suffer significant weight loss, and Moyes believes the 21-year-old Belgian faces a race against time to be fit for next Saturday's season-opener against Arsenal. "He has not been right all pre-season and is still not right," said Moyes, before adding: "It's noticeable looking at him how thin he has become. It has definitely had an effect on his [pre-season] performance. I don't think he is there yet."

Finally, Moyes could face another showdown with City after midfield target Rasmus Elm confirmed transfer talks with both clubs. "City have spoken to my agent. It's both fun and flattering that a big club like them show interest in me," said the Swede. "The biggest club is not necessarily the right one for me - I want to join a club where the coach gives me big confidence. I got a good impression of Moyes."

@Email:emegson@thenational.ae