Manchester City strike agreement for Arsenal's Robin van Persie
Arsenal face the prospect of losing a fifth player to Manchester City in three years after Robin van Persie provisionally agreed a contract with the Premier League leaders that promises to make him the division's best paid footballer.
City's proposal, which sources close to both club and player say has been accepted, is worth £10.9 million (Dh63.05m) a year, a deal that will place him atop the club's pay scale once Carlos Tevez, whose contract was worth £12.55m including loyalty bonuses, is sold this summer.
A transfer fee will have to be agreed with Arsenal for their captain, but with the striker's contract entering its final season, and City's offer almost £100,000 above the London club's pay ceiling, the Gunners will be presented with another strategic dilemma. Arsenal were forced to sell Samir Nasri to City in almost identical circumstances last summer.
City outbid all rivals, most notably Manchester United, by agreeing a €10m (Dh48.2m) annual pay package with Nasri - also entering the last 12 months of his contract - then waited for Arsenal's board to override Arsene Wenger's express opposition to a sale.
Van Persie, who turns 29 in August, has scored 25 goals in 27 Premier League appearances this season, underlining his status as the division's leading marksman.
Earlier this campaign, the Holland international publicly stated his intention not to discuss a contract extension with Arsenal until the season was over.
Asked about his interest in Van Persie ahead of last week's Europa League loss to Sporting, City manager Roberto Mancini confirmed his admiration for the player.
"I think Van Persie at this moment is one of the best strikers in Europe with [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo and with Sergio [Aguero] and Mario [Balotelli]," said Mancini.
"I think if there is a good player who wants to leave a club, then we are interested. But if this player wants to stay, we don't have any problem. In my opinion, Van Persie will stay at Arsenal. I think Robin van Persie will sign a new contract with Arsenal because if Arsenal lose also Van Persie they will have a big problem."
Wenger responded by declaring over a recent history in which Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Nasri have successively moved to City at significant profit.
"We will not lose anybody to Manchester City, or to anybody else because we want to keep our players," Wenger said. "We want to keep Robin van Persie, that is clear, we will do everything possible to extend his contract, that is clear, and apart from that, I can only let people talk."
Though Wenger has said his interest in Lukas Podolski is independent of Van Persie's future, Arsenal are close to securing the Germany international to provide an alternative at centre forward.
Podolski, 26, was the subject of a failed bid in the January transfer window, but is expected to arrive from Cologne for a fee of €13m this summer.
Van Persie is represented by Darren Dein, who negotiated the exits of Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry and Clichy from Arsenal.
The son of the club's former vice-chairman, David Dein, the agent also represents Alex Song, Wenger's first-choice holding midfielder.
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Updated: March 10, 2012 04:00 AM