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Saturday, December 27, 1997 Published at 21:57 GMT


Poborsky quits United
image: [ Karel Poborsky has quit Manchester United  to seek first team football with Benfica ]
Karel Poborsky has quit Manchester United to seek first team football with Benfica

Czech international winger Karel Poborksy has turned his back on the `theatre of dreams' and signed for Portuguese giants Benfica.

Poborsky flew out to Lisbon on Saturday after making what proved to be his last appearance in a United shirt when he came on as a second-half substitute in their 2-0 Boxing Day victory over Everton at Old Trafford.

Fed up at being only a bit player in United's quest for the European Cup, the 25-year-old has walked out on Alex Ferguson and signed for Graeme Souness' team for an undisclosed fee.

Poborsky, who shot to prominence last year when he helped the Czech Republic reach the final of Euro 96, has signed a three-and-a-half year contract with the Portuguese side.

The player, who cost United £3.5m in the summer of 1996, said he had left Old Trafford in a bid to play first-team football.

Poborsky is unhappy after making just six starts this season and says he is hoping to command a regular place at the Stadium of Light.

Speaking in stilted English, he said: "At Manchester I played only sometimes. I can play very much here, I think. For me it's very good."

Benfica president Joao Vale e Azevedo said Poborsky would make his debut in next Saturday's game at league leaders FC Porto, who are 11 points ahead of Souness' team.

Poborsky joined United from Slavia Prague 18 months ago after impresssing for the Czech Republic and scoring a memorable goal which beat Portugal in the Euro 96 quarter-finals.

He made 22 league appearances for United last season and picked up a championship medal in his first campaign.

But he failed to win a regular place on the right wing, mainly due to the outstanding form of David Beckham.

In leaving United, Poborsky may have given up his best chance of winning a European Cup medal but the signing shows Benfica are determined to regain their place as one of Europe's top five teams.

With the European Cup quarter finals coming up in March, Ferguson will be reluctant to lose the nippy Czech and his departure may signal another move into the transfer market in a bid to keep United's squad up to strength.

There are reports United have made a firm bid for Glasgow Rangers' Danish international midfielder Brian Laudrup, who has been in sparkling form for the Ibrox club.

Poborsky's departure may tempt fellow fringe player Jordi Cruyff to try his luck elsewhere.

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