Arsenal sign pounds 3.5m Suker

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The Independent Online
ARSENAL yesterday appeared to have succeeded where King Canute failed and turned back the tide. The Gunners, having acceded to the inevitable in sanctioning the departure of Nicolas Anelka to Real Madrid, persuaded Davor Suker, a far more established international, not only to make the opposite journey, but to take a pay cut to do so.

Yes, a pay cut. Maybe the game will not end up in hock to its practitioners after all.

This is all relative. The Croatian international is more likely to be spotted at the local Ferrari showroom buying a new run-around than at the Islington branch of the Salvation Army begging a bowl of soup. His basic wage has been pegged to around pounds 25,000 a week [pounds 1.25m pa], in line with Highbury's pay structure, but there could be substantial bonuses depending on his and the team's performance.

It is still pounds 15,000 a week less than his salary at Real, where he scored 110 goals in 220 matches before being frozen out by the coach, John Toshack, last spring. It is also less, according to Arsene Wenger, than he could have earned from clubs in Greece and Turkey.

And it is certainly a lot less than Anelka's salary will be when Real Madrid complete his pounds 22.5m transfer later this week.

Suker, already a millionaire, said he was happy to take a cut because his "ambition was to play for a major club in the Premiership". The 31- year-old, who was top scorer in the 1998 World Cup, added: "I have wanted to play in England since Euro 96. I was impressed by the atmosphere and stadiums and the way the crowds live their football."

He added the customary phrases about Arsenal being full of great players and having a great spirit, and wanting to work hard and score goals. He would not be drawn on his relationship with Toshack - who had suspended him without pay - and, after the interest in his personal life in Spain, was doubtless pleased that his relationship with Ana Obregon, a high-profile Spanish television personality was not raised.

It may be in time. Obregon, who had a sharp exchange with Toshack after Suker's last trip to London - Toshack criticised Suker for only buying her a pounds 16 teddy bear as a present, she called him "a clown" - has previously said she will stay in Spain to further her career even if Suker moved abroad. If that remains the case, he may struggle to settle.

Wenger, who said he was still hoping to sign Thierry Henry, described Suker as "an exceptional striker with huge talent and desire who adds something to us. He is more of a box player, a goalscorer, than Nwankwo Kanu or Dennis Bergkamp."

He added: "It is very unusual for a player to take a pay cut. It is very refreshing."

Suker's fee has been estimated from pounds 1m to pounds 3.5m, but even at the upper end, he is potentially a bargain. Having been inactive in Spain, he is unlikely to be match fit for three weeks, which puts him in line for a Highbury debut against Manchester United on 22 August. He is noted for diving as well as goals but, said Wenger, "he will not dive for us, I do not like diving." We shall see.

There was a brief word for the departing Anelka who will sign a seven- year deal with Real Madrid once the heavily indebted Spanish club have convinced Arsenal they can find the fee. Lorenzo Sanz, their president, had no doubts. "We can all call Anelka a Real Madrid player," he said.

Arsenal were not counting their chickens until he had fled the coop for good but Wenger said of the experience: "David Dein [the Arsenal vice- chairman] and I have aged a year in two months." He added of the unappreciative 20-year-old: "It is like being a father. You give your best to your players and do not expect anything in return. He arrived an unknown, he leaves a French international who won the Double. He can never say Arsenal was a bad thing in his career."

n Luciano Moggi, the director general of Juventus, said yesterday that Thierry Henry "will go to Arsenal". He indicated that the clubs were near to an agreement on the transfer of the French international forward for a fee of around pounds 10.5m.


1 Christian Vieri Lazio to Internazionale pounds 28m

2 Nicolas Anelka Arsenal to Real Madrid pounds 22.5m

3 Denilson Sao Paulo to Real Betis pounds 22m

4 Rivaldo Deportivo to Barcelona pounds 19m

5 Christian Vieri Atletico Madrid to Lazio pounds 17m

6 Ronaldo Barcelona to Internazionale pounds 16.8m

7 Andrei Shevchenko Dynamo Kiev to Milan pounds 15.7m

8 Vincenzo Montella Sampdoria to Roma pounds 15.3m

9 Dwight Yorke Aston Villa to Man Utd pounds 12.6m

10 Christian Vieri Juventus to Atletico Madrid pounds 11.9m