Manchester City were close to completing a £15m move for Arsenal's Kolo Touré last night as Mark Hughes responded swiftly to the disappointment of John Terry's decision on Sunday to stay with Chelsea.
The defender is set to become the second major Arsenal player that City have signed in just over a week, Emmanuel Adebayor having been sold by the Gunners for £25m.
There are certain to be questions asked of Arsène Wenger's transfer policy in the wake of two such high-profile departures but Touré's arrival at Eastlands is another example of City's financial muscle and is bound to increase the feeling that City can take Arsenal's place in the top four next season at the very least.
Touré, Arsenal's longest-serving player, represents the experience that Hughes was looking for in Terry, if perhaps not the leadership. The 28-year-old joined the Gunners for just £150,000 from the Ivory Coast club ASEC Mimosas in 2002 and won the Premier League in 2003-04, the FA Cup in 2003 and 2005, and featured in the Champions League final defeat by Barcelona in Paris in 2006.
He joins a City squad already possessing Richard Dunne, Vincent Kompany, Tal Ben-Haim and the England Under-21 international Nedum Onuoha in central defence, while Micah Richards is another option there for Hughes.
Touré's departure will leave Arsenal lighter in central defence, though Wenger did sign the 23-year-old Ajax captain, Thomas Vermaelen, earlier this month.
As City spend again, their Manchester rivals United are celebrating the the summer form of their free signing Michael Owen. Pre-seasons are important for all footballers but of those who travelled with Manchester United to Asia, none had more at stake than the 29-year-old who but for injury and some dubious career decisions would already be England's leading goalscorer.
Thus far, it has all gone swimmingly. On arrival in Kuala Lumpur he gave an interview which explained why he had allowed his form and morale to be dragged down at Newcastle and then got about the business of scoring goals. By the time he had boarded the bus for the long flight to Munich, after an 8-2 demolition of Hangzhou Greentown, he had averaged four in four games.
The opposition may have been modest but Owen might have reflected that, had he remained at St James' Park, he would by now be digesting the implications of a 6-1 defeat by Leyton Orient.
"He offers us something that we haven't got," said Ryan Giggs. "Michael is the predator of the kind Manchester United used to have over the years, in Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. And with Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez going, we need goals.
"We create a lot of chances at Manchester United and the thing that has always struck me about Michael is that, if he misses them, it doesn't bother him, whereas some players withdraw into their shell the moment they miss. Ruud had that mentality; all great goalscorers have it. They know they will get another chance.
"After leaving Newcastle with all their troubles, United have given him a new lease of life because he is coming into a side that will create chances and, if he starts scoring for Manchester United, the rest will come." The next few friendlies should give a clearer idea of whether the move that Sir Alex Ferguson described as "a punt" but which the club's chief executive, David Gill, said had been in the offing for a year, will work. This week's Audi Cup, where United will play Boca Juniors followed by either Milan or Bayern Munich, comes before a home game with Valencia on 5 August and the Community Shield against Chelsea.
If Owen manages four goals from that lot, then even the England manager, Fabio Capello, who has not selected the striker since the 1-0 defeat by France last year, might have to take notice.Reuse content