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 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 12:52 GMT
Football's foreign lottery
Will Christophe Dugarry be Birmingham's masterstroke - or join the list of foreign mercenaries in the Premiership's knackers' yard?
BBC Sport Online's Phil McNulty

Christophe Dugarry is more accustomed to "Les Bleus" than the Blues - more at home at Bordeaux than Birmingham City.

It may not even be stretching reality too far to suggest Dugarry had not even heard of St Andrews when he picked up a World Cup winners medal with France in 1998.

And yet his impending arrival at Birmingham City is being hailed as the signing that ensures their Premiership safety.

But Dugarry is a 30-year-old whose future is behind him and has had a habit of disappointing, particularly in spells at AC Milan and Barcelona.

He has never enjoyed huge popularity in France, admitting when he quit international football after the World Cup: "I'm tired of fighting. I've never surfed on a popular wave of support."

It is an ambitious move by Birmingham, but those at the club with long memories will remember a similar move for Argentina World Cup defender Alberto Tarantini in the late 70s.

Branco signs in - but soon signed off

That was little short of a disaster, and bringing in Dugarry carries all the same risks.

So is Dugarry going to be a success, or follow in the footsteps of other high profile imports who have used the Premiership to make a fast buck?

Is the Premiership, with Spanish gold and the lure of the lire in short supply, in danger of becoming a knacker's yards for those seeking the last big pay day?

The danger is there.

For every Bergkamp there has been a Branco. For every Gilberto Silva there has been a George Weah.

Brazil World Cup winner Branco pitched up at Middlesbrough in February 1996, effectively to hold fellow countryman Juninho's hand after his move to The Riverside.

Eight months and 11 games later it was all over. Branco was bombed out.

Weah was not a big hit up front for City

Weah arrived at Manchester City in August 2000 being lauded as one of the game's statesmen.

Then City boss Joe Royle announced: "He is a man of great humility and great talent."

Not for long it seems, because three months later Weah was on his way out with an icy blast for Royle.

The African legend said: "Mr Royle was not fair to me and tried to disrespect me twice. I was not going to let it happen for a third time."

And with that he was gone.

Roly Poly Brolin

Sweden World Cup star Tomas Brolin rolled, almost literally, into Elland Road from Parma in 1995 as the club's joint record signing at 4.5m.

But the pin-up of USA 94 had been replaced by a somewhat fuller figure, and he lived off the fat of the land at Leeds for two seasons, scoring just four goals.

He went out on loan to Grasshoppers Zurich and Parma before having a reputed 15,000-a-week contract terminated - even re-surfacing to play against Leeds for Crystal Palace.

Birmingham City must now wait to discover if Dugarry has enough fire in his belly to put his name among the worthwhile foreign imports.

Only time will tell if the Frenchman is a masterstroke or mercenary.

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