Barcelona president sets sights on pair of Gunners

The new Barcelona president, Juan Gaspart, is heading for London to offer £22m for Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars as he seeks to replace the Real Madrid-bound Luis Figo.

The new Barcelona president, Juan Gaspart, is heading for London to offer £22m for Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars as he seeks to replace the Real Madrid-bound Luis Figo.

Gaspart made the promise of signing the Arsenal pair, among a group of players, to fans before he won the club's presidential election. The new president spoke to his coaching staff yesterday but was preparing to fly out for discussions. Petit has told friends that he expects to be a Barcelona player by Friday in a £8m transfer.

Sources in Spain say Gaspart has sent an agent to make the offer and he will arrive himself to close the deals. Barcelona are also being linked with Arsenal's French striker Thierry Henry, but that looks remote.

Aston Villa want £8m for Ugo Ehiogu, which may price him out of a move. The club's chairman, Doug Ellis, has put the valuation on Ehiogu's head because he wants £4m profit, with half the fee going to West Brom. Now Manchester City, who are prepared to offer £7m, along with Sunderland and Middlesbrough, are ready to give up the chase.

Ehiogu is frustrated by the lack of activity as Villa have failed to agree a deal with West Brom. Ellis's offer of £1m as a one-off settlement has been rejected by Albion, who are holding out for 50 per cent. Ellis will not accept Manchester City's bid, and the manager, Joe Royle, may be forced to go elsewhere.

Villa announced yesterday that they have given up hope of their striker Benito Carbone signing a new contract.

The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, has been given £20m to spend after the club struck a deal with media group Granada Media to show delayed coverage of Premiership matches on the internet.

Houllier will use part of the windfall to step up his bid to lure Middlesbrough's £5.5m-rated midfielder Christian Ziege to Anfield. The Middlesbrough manager, Bryan Robson, is to hold talks with Ziege to attempt to persuade him to stay.

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