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Marc Overmars' £15million move to Barcelona came a step closer on Tuesday evening following the revelation that the he has signed a pre-conctractual agreement with FC Barcelona.

Overmars put pen to paper three months ago for a move to the Nou Camp when Louis van Gaal was in charge.

Van Gaal has since left, but new Barcelona president Joan Gaspart insists the agreement still applies - and it will be a powerful document to wave when he meets Arsenal officials for talks later this week.

The news will infuriate Arsenal as it is technically an illegal approach by the Spaniards to a player who is under contract to them.

Arsenal have already had problems with these methods being used to lure one of their players by Spanish clubs, Real Madrid were last summer accused of an illegal approach to Nicolas Anelka before his eventual £22.9m move to the Bernabeu.

That transfer left such a bad taste in the mouths at Highbury last year that there was a feeling that any more business with Real would be unwelcome. But now another Spanish giant is apparently going down the same path.

Gaspart on Monday pledged that he would bring both Overmars and his Gunners teammate Emmanuel Petit to the Nou Camp in a joint £32m deal as a sop to his clubs fans, outraged at the loss of Luis Figo to Real Madrid.

Overmars has privately told friends that he would like to go to Spain, even though Van Gaal has now left the club.

This type of pre-contractual agreement is strictly illegal under Fifa rules, as Overmars is not a Bosman free agent, but it is commonplace on the Continent, and was in fact the means by which new Real president Florentino Perez prized Portuguese star Figo away from Barcelona in that extraordinary world record £38.7m deal.

Gaspar in fact made the signing of both Overmars and Petit from Arsenal one of his campaign pledges in his successful campaign to win the club presidency of Barcelona - and he is determ ined to carry the promise through.

He will offer players plus cash if that is necessary, with players Winston Bogarde, Frederic Dehu, Philip Cocu, Jari Litmanen up for grabs, as well as Simao.

Whether Wenger, who has already departed with his Arsenal squad for their German training camp, will want any of those players is another matter.

Publicly the Gunners manager has insisted he wants neither Overmars or Petit to leave, but the signings of the Robert Pires and Lauren make it likely that he is prepared to lose Overmars at least - if the offer is high enough.

Overmars has been expressing his desire to leave Highbury since the summer and Wenger could take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen some of the weaker positions in his squad.

Bogarde and Dehu would be particularly attractive prospects for Wenger with Tony Adams likely to play fewer games this season due to his increasing injury problems - but he also needs cover up front with Kanu needed on international duty by Nigeria several times throughout the coming season.
 
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