Zenit St Petersburg are determined to inflate the price tag Arsenal must meet for wantaway star midfielder Andrei Arshavin, according to his agent.
The Russians yesterday suggested a £20m deal for the 27-year-old playmaker, who shot to prominence during Euro 2008, was set to be concluded for their prized asset – with both the Gunners and Italian club Juventus understood to be leading the chase.
Arshavin, a long-time target for Arsene Wenger, is reported to have visited the Barclays Premier League club’s Hertfordshire training ground during a trip to England earlier this year, while it has also been claimed the player is in fact already in London to put the final touches to the move.
While Zenit boss Dick Advocaat, the former Rangers manager, is resigned to losing Arshavin – who helped his side reach the Champions League group stages for the first time this season – the player’s representative maintains any talk of a done deal are premature.
“There are no negotiations yet,” Dennis Lachter said in the London Evening Standard.
“It is the people of Zenit trying to initiate some kind of interest. They are trying to use the media to make the price of Arshavin £20m.”
The Russians, though, may well be forced to offload the unsettled player at a cut price, with Arshavin having threatened to invoke new FIFA regulations and buy out the remaining 18 months of his contract to become a free agent.
While Arsenal could shortly be ready to formally table an offer as Wenger looks to bolster his options following injury to captain Cesc Fabregas, it is unlikely to be anywhere near the figure Zenit – whose domestic season ended in November - have touted. Arshavin’s hefty wage package would also have to be taken into account by the traditionally prudent Gunners, whose record signings under Wenger remain the £13million paid for Sylvain Wiltord and a similar package for Spain winger Jose Antonio Reyes, with neither move proving successful in the long term.
While the Arsenal manager maintained last week people were in “dreamland” if they thought the club would break the bank to land a star name just for the sake of it under the current gloomy economic outlook, Wenger did indicate he would be prepared to buy an “exceptional talent” – even if, like Arshavin, they were cup-tied for the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Arsenal have also been linked with Everton’s Spain international Mikel Arteta - which Wenger rejected out of hand at last week’s media conference.
However, when pressed on any interest in Arshavin, the Gunners manager was less abrasive, perhaps indicating he was hopeful of eventually landing his man.
“At the moment, there is no progress,” he said ahead of the FA Cup tie against Plymouth.
“If there is any progress made, you will be informed I promise you.”