Barca pay £32m for Overmars and Petit

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The Independent Online

Arsenal's vice-chairman, David Dein, said yesterday that a paucity of talent in the world game had caused the type of transfer-fee inflation that persuaded him to sell Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit to Barcelona for a combined price of £32m.

Arsenal's vice-chairman, David Dein, said yesterday that a paucity of talent in the world game had caused the type of transfer-fee inflation that persuaded him to sell Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit to Barcelona for a combined price of £32m.

"I'm afraid this is what football is all about now," Dein said after it had been confirmed that pair will be plying their trade at the Nou Camp from the start of next season. "Today there is a shortage of talent and there is too much money chasing too little talent."

On a day of frenzied transfer activity across Europe, Dein added that the final decision to sell Overmars and Petit had been made by Arsenal's manager. "Arsÿne Wenger has to make the final call on all players and he was prepared to release them," said Dein, who pointed out that Wenger sold another high-profile player, Nicolas Anelka, last year - for a profit of £22m - and had then invested in Thierry Henry, who proved to be an inspiredreplacement. "People have got to have faith in Arsÿne Wenger's judgement," Dein said. "He has not let us down in the past and will not in the future."

On the prospect of new faces being drafted in, Dein added: "The net is being cast far and wide and without being too optimistic there could be another signing before the start of the season, but there's no guarantee." The club have already signed replacements for the outgoing pair in the form of the £7m Cameroon midfielder, Lauren, from Real Mallorca, and the £6m French winger, Robert Pires, from Marseilles.

Wenger, who is currently in Germany at a training camp with the rest of the Arsenal squad, said yesterday: "We are 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."

The fee that Barça are paying for Overmars (£25m) makes the Dutch winger the fourth most expensive player in history after Luis Figo (who left Barcelona last week for Real Madrid for £37.2m), Hernan Crespo (who moved from Parma to Lazio for £36m) and Christian Vieri (who cost Internazionale £31m from Lazio). The money Arsenal will receive for Overmars represents a £19.5m profit on the £5.5m they paid to sign him from Ajax three years ago. The £7m fee for Petit, a World Cup and European Championship-winner with France, represents a profit of £3.5m. Both deals confirm Wenger's reputation as a shrewd operator.

The first confirmation of yesterday's deals came via Overmars' official website, which carried a personal message from the player. "Finally, the waiting is over," Overmars said. "Today I will fly to Barcelona for a medical and to sign a five year contract. My agent, Rob Jansen, of Sport Promotions concluded the deal a few hours ago, which involves a £25m transfer fee.

"I'm so excited. Barcelona are arguably the biggest side in Europe and I've always dreamed of playing for them. Of course many of my friends and international team-mates are already there. I can't wait to pull on the famous shirt and play my first game. Although it has nothing to do with me, it is flattering to be the subject of such a high fee, which I believe is the highest in Dutch football history."

By yesterday afternoon, the player had also had time to consider the Arsenal fans he will leave behind. "I would like to thank the fans for all their support," he added. "I'd like to make a personal gesture to the Arsenal fans because they are the best. It's strange to think I won't be in front of them at Highbury next season. Still, I think they had three good years' service out of me."

If the reaction on Arsenal's main unofficial website, arseweb.co.uk, was anything to go by yesterday, Gunners fans have taken yesterday's news in their stride. "We hate to say it," said one comment piece on the size of the fees, "but this all sounds like good business."

If all the summer arrivals and departures at Barcelona go as scheduled, Overmars will replace Boudewijn Zenden as the sixth first-team Dutch international at the club alongside Michael Reiziger, Patrick Kluivert, Phillip Cocu and the De Boer brothers, Ronald and Frank. "I've got a good feeling about this," Frank De Boer said. "With Overmars here, a 4-3-3 system could be utilised very effectively. I'm sure we are going to score lots of goals."

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