Arsenal sells Overmars and Petit to Barcelona

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The Independent Online

Arsenal has agreed to sell Dutch winger Marc Overmars and French midfielder Emmanuel Petit to Barcelona for a combined fee believed to be more than £30m.

Arsenal has agreed to sell Dutch winger Marc Overmars and French midfielder Emmanuel Petit to Barcelona for a combined fee believed to be more than £30m.

Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein negotiated with Barcelona's new president Joan Gaspart until the early hours of the morning to finalize the deal.

All that remained to be settled was the players' personal terms to join the Spanish giants. Overmars was believed already en route to Spain to open the discussions.

The deal ended a long chase by Barcelona for the Highbury pair. Gaspart promised he would sign the pair if elected as president, achieving some consolation after losing Luis Figo to Real Madrid last week for a world record $55.5m.

Overmars' fee was £25m, according to Jansen's Sports Promotions company. A spokeswoman said he agreed to a five-year contract.

Speaking on his own website, the Dutch winger said: "Myself and Emmanuel Petit, who I believe will be joining me, were unveiled at Arsenal on the same day.

"On Saturday afternoon I will be presented to the Spanish media and Barcelona fans - I am glad Manu will be at my side again."

Overmars will link up with many of his international teammates, who followed the now departed former Ajax coach Louis van Gaal to Barcelona. Patrick Kluivert, Frank and Ronald de Boer and Winston Bogarde are among the Dutch internationals already with the club.

"Of course many of my friends and international teammates are already there," Overmars said. "I can't wait to pull on the famous shirt and play my first game.

"Although the fee has nothing to do with me, all the same it is flattering to be the subject of such a high fee, which I believe is the highest in Dutch football history.

"I certainly intend to make history at the Nou Camp. Its been a fantastic three years for me at Highbury, now for the next chapter in my career."

When Gaspart arrived in London last night, he insisted he would not try to approach either Overmars or Petit - part of the French Euro 2000-winning line-up - before a deal was done with Arsenal.

"I know that people who are here (Overmars and Petit) would like to come to Barcelona, but I tell the agents that before I speak with the players, I want to speak to Arsenal," he said.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, currently in Germany at a training camp with the rest of the Arsenal squad, was desperate to hang on to both players but Barcelona's enormous offer has proved to be more than the Londoners could resist.

Wenger admitted he would be sorry to see the pair leave Highbury, but added that they parted on good terms.

"We are obviously very sad to see both Marc and Manu leave the club, but we thank them both for their contribution to Arsenal and wish them success at Barcelona," he told the club's official website.

Overmars joined Arsenal from Ajax for £5.5m in the summer of 1997, shortly after Petit left Monaco for Highbury for £3.5m.

The Premiership club has already signed replacements in £7m Cameroon midfielder Lauren from Spain's Real Mallorca and French winger Robert Pires at £6m from Marseille.

Wenger, however, is sure to step up his search for more new signings to add to the squad although it is believed Arsenal will not accept any Barcelona rejects as part of the double deal for Petit and Overmars.

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