Soccer / Berkovic Moves a Step Closer to Portsmouth

Struggling club also wants Maccabi TA captain Tal Ben Haim

Manchester City midfielder Eyal Berkovic appears to be a step closer to moving to Premier League rival Portsmouth after the club's chairman Milan Mandaric said yesterday that the two had met and that the Israeli player had expressed a desire to join the club.

"There are a few more things to solve, so we will only know in a few days time," Mandaric said. "The manager Harry Redknapp is extremely interested in Berkovic, and has only good things to say about him from the time he coached him at West Ham." Berkovic played for two seasons under Redknapp at West Ham, and the club finished fifth in the Premier League.

"As far as it depends on me, Berkovic is close to signing with Portsmouth," Mandaric said. "We are in a tough situation and need points in the bag. Berkovic can definitely help create goal-scoring opportunities and points." Portsmouth, which was promoted last season, is in 16th place in the Premier League, one point above the drop zone.

Before any deal can be completed, however, Portsmouth first will have to reach an understanding with Manchester City over Berkovic's 28,000 pound a week contract, which still has 18 months to go. The midfielder's astronomical wage package proved a stumbling block in talks between the clubs at the beginning of the current season when Berkovic put in a transfer request, a move that led to his being sidelined by City coach Kevin Keegan.

With City on a dismal run that has seen it slide toward the bottom of the table, Keegan himself could be given the boot, a move that might keep Berkovic with the club.

Meanhwile, another Israeli player, Maccabi Tel Aviv captain Tal Ben Haim, could find himself on his way to Portsmouth when the transfer window opens in January. Ben Haim was supposed to have trained with another Premiership team, Blackburn Rovers, last week, but had to cancel his trip to England because of flu. Now he could find himself on the way to Portsmouth if the club comes up with the necessary funds.