Mandic says Kewell deal above board

BERNIE MANDIC is adamant his role in the Harry Kewell transfer saga will stand up to any potential FIFA investigation.

The Football Association yesterday submitted documentation to the world governing body in relation to Kewell's transfer from Leeds to Liverpool last week.

It is understood complaints have been made by licensed agents in Australia as to the role played by Bernie Mandic, long recognised as Kewell's representative, in the £5 million deal as he is not officially regarded by FIFA.

Mandic is employed by a company called Max Sport, of which there is an Australian-based subsidiary entitled Sports Corporation International for whom his brother Nikola works, and it is he who is recognised by FIFA.

Bernie Mandic's role in any transfer negotiations should be nothing more than administrative, yet it is his signed name which appears on letters between Max Sport and Leeds chairman John McKenzie, as well as on e-mail correspondence.

With Max Sport pocketing £2 million from the Kewell deal, Bernie Mandic's role has been criticised, although he has insisted "everything has been done above board".

But it is clear FIFA are looking into matters, although no official probe has yet been launched, prompting the FA to pass on a information on the deal.

However, Mandic said: "At the end of the day, the Harry Kewell deal was negotiated by a licensed FIFA agent. That man is Nikola Mandic and he is there on the FIFA website.

"If people want to make an issue of this, then fantastic. Considering some of the most corrupt deals that have ever been conducted have involved licensed FIFA agents, then I find this latest episode quite hilarious."

When questioned as to his exact role in the transfer, Mandic added: "I am Harry's commercial manager and as such I speak on his behalf. If Leeds were uncomfortable with that, then it was never mentioned. They were at liberty to deal with Nikola. They said it was not necessary until we get to a point of finalising something."

Meanwhile, Gerard Houllier has given the all-clear for Kewell to make his Liverpool debut in tonight's friendly with Cologne. The Liverpool boss has been working with his squad at a Swiss training camp ahead of the clash in Germany.

And the Frenchman confirmed that his £5 million recruit from Leeds will figure in the match against the Bundesliga newcomers.

Houllier said: "Harry is ready to play. He has settled very well into training with us.

"He looks like he is a very good trainer and you can see how much he enjoys his football.

"I will be playing him against Cologne. Everyone with us should get a chance."

New full-back Steve Finnan will also make his bow in a red shirt, and Houllier added: "I expect to play a different team in each half but I haven't yet decided on the line-ups."

The arrival of Australian Kewell has had a massive impact on the Anfield club and fans and the German club are bracing themselves for a sell-out, even though their stadium is being rebuilt An indication of how Kewell has captured the fans' imagination, comes from a poll which has voted him Liverpool's most exciting signing since they last won the title 14 years ago.

In a poll run by Liverpool's official website, www.liverpoolfc.tv, Kewell snapped up almost 60% of the vote to find the club's top capture since 1989-90.

The poll does not close for another week, but Kewell is already virtually uncatchable with more than 7,000 of the 11,000 votes cast worldwide, picking up 59.6% to put him well clear of nearest challengers Jari Litmanen (10.3%) and Stan Collymore (6.6%).

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