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Henry rumours stir transfer whirligig

india Updated: Jun 21, 2007 17:52 IST
AFP
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The best attack by a distance, the joint best defence and the most exhilarating football proved a recipe for failure for Barcelona this season as they went from kings of Europe and Spain to empty-handed bridesmaids.

After gifting the league title to Real Madrid and losing their Champions League crown after bowing out to finalists Liverpool the Catalan club now stand at the hub of the Europe-wide phoney war that starts when championships end in the shape of a summer of frenzied transfer activity.

As far as the voracious Spanish media are concerned, Arsenal's Thierry Henry will wear Barca's colours next season and could smooth down the feathers mutually ruffled this campaign by Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho, leaders of "the two dressing room factions," according to AS sports daily.

According to Barcelona-based El Mundo Deportivo, Barca vice-chairman Ferran Soriano "is negotiating a transfer (for Henry) directly with Arsene Wenger" for upwards of 20 million euros.

AS insists Henry, 30 in August, has all but reached the exit door at Arsenal having been irritated by the surprise departure in April of vice-chairman David Dein, who cited "irreconcilable differences" with the rest of the Gunners board.

That move could impact negatively on manager Arsene Wenger's future at the Emirates Stadium and with the financial burden of the new venue weighing heavily, Arsenal may rely on the further development of youngsters such as Theo Walcott rather than splash out.

As AS points out, "Henry is set to turn 30 without important European honours with the club."

British media quoted Cameroon striker Eto'o as saying his close friend would soon join him at the Nou Camp.

"He is a great mate of mine and we will play all together," Eto'o was quoted as saying by British newspapers, while former Arsenal skipper Patrick Vieira told the BBC, Arsenal must get the chequebook out if they want to keep the Frenchman.

According to AS, signing "Arsenal's French marksman has become a true obsession at the Nou Camp."

But AS also posed the question: "Who will sit on the bench?"

Lionel Messi is also in Barca's array of attacking talent, as well as former Chelsea man Eidur Gudjohnsen, now seemingly surplus to requirements.

Eto'o seems sure to stay after AC Milan moved to sign Honduras international David Suazo and the European champions' vice-president Adriano Galliani said if the move was finalised they would drop their interest in the Barca man as Suazo "will probably be the end of our buying."

El Mundo Deportivo meanwhile posed a question mark against bringing Henry to the Nou Camp, revealing that "the bosses don't think a starting line-up including Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Messi and Henry is viable."

Barca coach Frank Rijkaard said after Wednesday's narrow friendly win over Mamelodi Sundowns, when goals from fringe players Marin Ezquerro and Marc Crosas staved off embarrassment, that the squad had to pull its socks up, echoing the sentiments of chairman Joan Laporta.

"It is important to act. We really want to get back down to work," said the Dutchman - with whom Eto'o fell out mid-season - although first the squad will have a month off before pre-season encounters in Scotland, China and Japan.

At the back, Barca want to shore things up with a new approach for Lyon's French international left back Eric Abidal, whose club want around 20 million euros for any deal.

Real, who would appear to have even more rebuilding to do after bidding farewell to David Beckham and Roberto Carlos, still dream, meanwhile, of breaking the bank to prise Kaka from AC Milan.

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