United close in on Nasri
MANCHESTER UNITED have opened talks to sign Arsenal's Samir Nasri. A meeting took place in Manchester between third parties hoping to broker a deal for the 23-year-old French international, who has just one year left on his contract at Arsenal and, according to sources close to him, has signalled his intention to leave.
The development is another blow for Arsenal. On Wednesday, they missed out to United in the race to sign defender Phil Jones and there were suggestions last night that Barcelona are set to rekindle their long-standing interest in Cesc Fabregas.
While Fabregas' return to Catalonia has long been anticipated, Nasri's departure would be almost as great a blow.
It is understood that the Frenchman has already been offered, by intermediaries, to Chelsea but that Roman Abramovich is concentrating on signing Luka Modric from Tottenham Hotspur instead.
Nasri wants to stay in England, and continue to play in the Premier League, and despite talk that Manchester City may also make a bid it seems that if he leaves Arsenal he will go to Old Trafford. The talks are still at a preliminary stage, and no official contact has been made between the two clubs.
To add to Arsenal's problems, Liverpool have made a £5m bid for their left-back, Gael Clichy. While Arsene Wenger would be prepared to countenance that sale, with Kieran Gibbs waiting in reserve, he is desperate for Nasri to stay.
Wenger has already stated it is “certain” that Arsenal will not sell Nasri to United and he hopes the player will be persuaded to sign a new contract during the course of next season. If he does not, Wenger faces the prospect of such a valuable asset leaving for free next summer.
United are exploring the possibility of signing Nasri as they attempt to strengthen their midfield now that Paul Scholes has retired and Owen Hargreaves has been released.
However, it would be intriguing to see where Nasri would play, should he sign. Manager Alex Ferguson has looked at deals to secure Wesley Sneijder from Inter Milan and Modric but may regard Nasri as a cheaper, more realistic alternative.
It would certainly be remiss of United not to investigate a move for such an outstanding player who would be available at a fraction of his market value. United are exploiting a similar situation to acquire Ashley Young from Aston Villa and the transfer was agreed in principle with Young's representatives at United's Carrington training ground on Wednesday.
Arsenal maintain that Nasri is still in discussions over extending his deal and there is a sense that he may be using United's interest as a bargaining tool to increase his wages, which are currently about £55,000 a week.
Wenger is expected to demonstrate his and the club's ambition this summer with transfer activity of his own.
Talks to sign the forward Gervinho from Lille and the attacking midfielder Willian from Shakhtar Donetsk are in an advanced stage and they are also interested in Everton left-back Leighton Baines and a central defender – possibly Blackburn Rovers' Christopher Samba or Bolton's Gary Cahill. With Barca's priorities being another striker, thought to be Villarreal's Guiseppe Rossi, and a left-back, it has led to the assumption that the club will shelve plans to sign Fabregas for yet another year.
But Pep Guardiola is open to selling a number of players – including Bojan Krkic, Jeffren, Maxwell and Gabriel Milito – which would increase his bargaining power. Arsenal, however, may well be more interested in the possibility of signing Javier Mascherano.