Niemi still to sign

Last updated : 05 July 2004 By Editor
Niemi's initial Saints contract was only marginally better than the one he had at Hearts. Despite proving himself as a top quality 'keeper both at Tyncastle, Rangers and at international level, Saints managed to persuade Niemi to take a deal based on his lack of Premiership experience.

"When I came to Southampton I continued with almost the same salary that I was earning in Scotland," said Antii. "I understood that because I didn't have any previous good performances in England. The club told me last year that I will get a new contract if I play well.

"It is not a matter of big money. As a Finnish person, I have learned that if you promise something you have to hold on that."

"Leaving Southampton is the last thing I want to do. I love the club and the city. If this goes as far as considering leaving Southampton, that's a shame."

It would appear that having obtained Niemi for a bargain, they are intent on keeping the player on as low a wage as possible, despite his importance to the team.

Chairman Rupert Lowe said: "We have made Antti a very generous offer to reflect his excellent performances last season and talks are still in progress.
"We do not divulge details or comment on this kind of speculation. When and if something is agreed we will let people know via this web site.

"I don't know where the story has come from but the situation is that we are still talking about extending his deal which still has three years to run in any case.

"That is a long time in football and we are hoping he will extend it because he is a top-class keeper."

So, it would appear that it's all part of usual contract negotiations. With three years on his contract, Saints are not being rushed into making any concessions, while Niemi will rely on the fact that he's Saints most important player to improve his bargaining power.

Other players currently in contract negotiations are Michael and Anders Svensson. Michael missed Euro 2004 through injury following a superb season with the Saints.

Anders continues ot frustrate at times at both levels,often being substituted for Sweden. Despite obvious ability, Anders has yet to really find his role in the Saints team. Thei agent, Kent Carlzon, said "We are negotiating for an extension to the contracts of Anders and Michael and hopefully that will be done soon. We are within touching distance."