Arsenal close in on Bulgarian wing Dimitrov

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The Independent Online

Arsenal are close to signing Nikolai Dimitrov, a 20-year-old Bulgarian winger, while Jens Lehmann is still mulling over an offer from his former club, Borussia Dortmund. The 38-year-old will be in goal for tomorrow's FA Cup tie away to Burnley.

Dimitrov, an under-21 international who has been likened to Arjen Robben, is currently on trial with Arsenal from Levski Sofia. He has been a first-team regular at Levski for three seasons and can also play as a striker. A decision on whether to buy him should be taken next week.

Dimitrov might have been surprised yesterday to have found himself training alongside David Beckham. The former England captain, wearing full Arsenal training kit, embossed with the squad number 23 previously held by Sol Campbell was with the senior squad to maintain his fitness before his return to the LA Galaxy next month.

"He is working to be fit [in readiness for] when he is moving to Los Angeles in February, so now, in January, we are giving him assistance with his fitness," said Arsne Wenger, Arsenal's manager.

Wenger said there would not be much transfer activity at the Emirates Stadium this month. "For the transfer window," he said, "we have nobody to come in and nobody is going out."

That is not necessarily the full story. Talks have taken place between Lehmann, who has grown frustrated at losing his place to Manuel Almunia, and Dortmund, the club he left in 2003. The German club's managing director, Hans-Joachim Watzke, held a press conference yesterday he had hoped to unveil Lehmann and said he was "cautiously optimistic" that the goalkeeper would arrive from Arsenal.

"In my view it was a very positive chat," he said. "Jens said he would think about [the offer], but also asked that he not be put under pressure to make a decision, which is fine by us."

Financial issues are one stumbling block. Although Lehmann can leave Arsenal for free he does not want to accept the kind of pay cut Dortmund are proposing. However, the German club hope that the offer of a two-year contract, which would take Lehmann beyond his 40th birthday, will prove decisive.

Wenger is hopeful he can persuade two other disgruntled players Lassana Diarra and Gilberto Silva to stay. The former is attracting interest, especially from Portsmouth.

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