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Soccer-Striker Bianchi swaps Manchester for Rome

By Paul Virgo

ROME, Jan 23 - Italian forward Rolando Bianchi
will be presented as a Lazio player on Thursday after agreeing a
move from Manchester City, the Serie A club said on Wednesday.

"I had two other interesting offers but I chose Lazio for my
future and to boost a great team," Bianchi told the Rome club's
Web site (www.sslazio.it).

"It's a smart decision that I thought about again and again.
I'm sure it's the right choice and the future will show it. The
sooner I have the chance to take the field, the happier I'll
be."

Italian media said the 24-year-old is joining Lazio on loan
until the end of the season, when the transfer should become
permanent.

Bianchi struggled to settle at Manchester City, who he
joined in July for 13 million euros ($19 million) after scoring
18 goals in Serie A with Reggina last season.

Lazio are just two points above the Serie A relegation zone
and have signed the forward to help them avoid the drop.

He thanked Manchester City for giving him the chance to play
in the Premier League and paid tribute to the English club's
fans on his Web site (www.rolandobianchi.it).

"They welcomed me with great affection, making me feel one
of them immediately," he said.

"I'll always carry their passion and attachment to the team
in my heart and I'll never forget their wonderful words --
Rolando Bianchi, he came from Italy, he plays for Man City."

However, in December the forward said he planned to return
to Italy soon because playing abroad was not helping his chances
of winning a place with the Italian national team.

Bianchi also admitted having trouble getting used to the
British diet and raised doubts about English referees.

"In Italy the referee whistles as soon as a defender brushes
against you," he had said. "In the Premier League you don't get
a free kick even if the defender runs you over with a tank."

(Editing by Ken Ferris)