Arsenal insist reports they have signed Marseille’s attacking midfielder Samir Nasri for £12.5m are premature.
The French international’s arrival is likely to take place in the next couple of days – and could hurry the departure of Alexander Hleb, with Spanish giants Barcelona said to be preparing a bid of similar financial weight.
It is believed Arsenal will make no formal announcement of Nasri’s capture until all documents, including international clearance, are completed.
A club spokesperson said: “There has been no signing yet. In line with our usual policy, we will only announce when they are done.”
However, manager Arsene Wenger, who maintains Belarus star Hleb will not be allowed to buy out the remaining two years of his Arsenal contract, wants to recruit the Frenchman before the start of the Euro 2008 finals next weekend and confirmation is expected in the next 48 hours.
Nasri, 20, can operate on the left of midfield, where Hleb has been playing, or through the middle, where Arsenal have a hole to fill following the exit of fellow Frenchman Mathieu Flamini to AC Milan.
Nasri has been tagged in France as ’the new Zinedine Zidane’ after the Algerian-born former Les Bleus captain and has already scored his first goal for the senior national side.
He has been named in Raymond Domenech’s Euro 2008 squad but Wenger has been trailing him for a while and wants to move in now before prices go up if Nasri proves a star in Austria and Switzerland.
Wenger has been encouraged by recent suggestions from the Arsenal board he will have more financial clout in the transfer market this summer and has so far not wavered on his determination to keep Hleb, 27, despite constant reports the player is on his way to Italian champions Inter Milan – or Spain, with either Real Madrid or Barcelona said to be interested.
Now media reports in Germany have quoted former Hamburg SV star Hleb as saying claims he wants to leave Arsenal are “nonsense” and he loves the club and has great respect for boss Wenger.
However, Hleb’s representative Uli Ferber told the Daily Telegraph: “It is always a great honour that a club like Real Madrid is interested in him.
“This confirms the good work that Hleb has been doing in these last few years that he is being recognised by one of the greatest clubs in the world.”
The latest speculation is Ferber and Hleb met Barcelona’s sporting director Txiki Begiristain in Kaiserslautern this week before the friendly international clash between Belarus and Germany and Barca are close to making a £12m offer to Arsenal.