Dein keen on bringing ‘The Beast’ to Highbury

ARSENAL vice-chairman David Dein has been holding talks in Seville about a possible move for Brazilian forward Julio Baptista as the Gunners look to strengthen their strike force.

However, although Dein also stopped off at the Nou Camp to speak to Barcelona president Joan Laporta, the future of Thierry Henry was not on the agenda for serious discussion.

Arsene Wenger has revealed his intention to make two "world-class" signings this summer and Arsenal have already agreed terms on a deal that could be worth up to £10million for midfielder Alexander Hleb.

The Belarus international must still undergo a medical and requires a work permit, but Arsenal are hopeful that the deal can be finalised next week.

Indeed, the club's attentions have turned to a new striker, with Jeremie Aliadiere having joined Celtic on a one-year loan deal despite signing a new long-term contract at Highbury.

The Gunners were initially linked with Robinho but he appears bound for Real Madrid and Baptista, who could also cost around £10million, has now emerged as the main target.

Wenger watched the 23-year-old Brazilian international, who has won 11 senior caps, in action at their recent success in the Confederations Cup tournament.

Although he came to Seville in 2003 from Sao Paulo as a defensive midfielder, nicknamed 'The Beast' due to his uncompromising style of play, he has since been transformed into a striker of genuine promise.

Baptista scored 20 league goals in his first season in Spain before scoring 18 times last season to underline his growing reputation.

Moreover, the Gunners already have one Brazilian international at the club Gilberto Silva even though Edu has gone to Valencia.

While Dein also held talks with Laporta at the Nou Camp, with the G14 group said to have been on the agenda, Barcelona's interest in Henry did not warrant serious discussion as the Gunners remain determined to hold onto their prize asset.

As well as Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, Dutchman Robin van Persie also remains among the forward options at Highbury, although he is not expected to return for the start of pre-season training next week.

Indeed, having only just been released on bail from prison under investigation amid rape allegations, the club are considering whether to keep him out of the Amsterdam pre-season tournament at the end of this month.

No final decision has yet been taken, but van Persie's recent off-pitch problems, coupled with his previous stint at Ajax's arch rivals Feyenoord, could lead to him being left out of the squad for the friendly games.

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