Arsenal set to bid for Angel but Villa want £20m

Wenger seeks Colombian goalscorer to reinforce injury-hit strike force
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The Independent Football

Arsenal are preparing a £7m to £8m bid for Juan Pablo Angel, but Aston Villa now want £20m for their Colombian striker.

The Gunners were prepared to wait until the summer, when Angel enters the final year of his contract, but the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, has been pushed into making a move because of an injury to Jérémie Aliadière.

Angel is waiting to hear word that Arsenal want him - and how much Villa are looking for to let him go. If the interest is confirmed before the end of the month he will ask for a transfer. Villa will want a quick decision on Angel as they would have to find a replacement. Leeds' Mark Viduka is David O'Leary's first choice, but he would be expensive.

Angel has been in prolific form this season and the fact that he is eligible for the Champions' League makes him even more attractive to Arsenal. The Colombian, who speaks good English, can play as a solo striker or, if needed, as a partner for Thierry Henry.

Arsenal are at least one striker short as they go into the second half of the season. Aliadière's injury, plus worries about whether Sylvain Wiltord and Nwankwo Kanu will stay at the club, puts enormous pressure on Henry. Wenger has a budget of around £8m and can raise cash, especially if a rival wants to buy Francis Jeffers, who is halfway through a season's loan at Everton.

Angel joined Villa from the Argentinian club River Plate for a club record £9.5m in January 2001 after a protracted transfer deal, which collapsed initially when it was discovered that an agent owned part of his contract, in contravention of rules set by world football's governing body, Fifa. It was finalised only after River Plate had proved full ownership of the player, but Angel was then bedevilled with family and domestic problems, his wife becoming ill after complications developed during the birth of their first child. Struggling to settle as a result, Angel scored only one goal in nine Premiership games that season.

In December 2002, details of the transfer, which was completed when John Gregory was the manager, were passed to the FA's compliance unit, which had been set up to ensure that football clubs conduct financial dealings properly. However, 13 months after opening a file on Angel, the FA has yet to announce any findings from its investigations.

Angel finished as Villa's top scorer with 12 goals in the 2001-02 season but went backwards last season, starting only eight Premiership matches and scoring three goals in all competitions.

The arrival of O'Leary as manager has brought about a transformation, however. With 13 goals already this season, he has established himself as a favourite of the Holte End. He has previously insisted he is happy to stay at Villa Park as long as O'Leary is in charge.