Dein the only obstacle to Vieira's Italian job

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The Independent Online

Unlike in previous summers when Real Madrid have tried and failed to sign the 29-year-old known there is now a willingness at Arsenal to sell their captain for what would represent a good price for a player of his age. Their key target to replace him is understood to be the Lyon midfielder Mahamadou Diarra who would require a fee of around £5m to prise him away from the French champions.

Arsenal's readiness to talk to the vice-president of Juventus, Roberto Bettega, is born of a confidence that the Frenchman will leave if the personal terms offered to him by the Italian club are acceptable. It was that aspect of the deal that caused his move to Real Madrid to fall through last summer and Juventus are aware of how much importance Vieira places on his own salary package.

Juventus are certain that Vieira will join if they can prove to him that he will be among the very top earners at the club and if they show no hesitation in giving him the offer that he believes he is worth. Although Luciano Moggi, Juventus' director general, remarked last month that Vieira would be exactly the kind of player Juventus would like to sign it has been very difficult, until recently, for the Italian club to get an idea of how he feels about the move.

The Arsenal captain has been away on holiday for much of the pre-season and has not had an agent after he broke from his former representative following the collapse of his move to Real Madrid. He has two years remaining on his deal with Arsenal but Juventus are believed to be preparing a four-year contract that would also be an improvement on his wages of around £80,000 a week at Highbury.

The only obstacle to the move, other than the agreement of personal terms, will be the uncompromising negotiating of the Arsenal vice-chairman, David Dein, who will be keen to get as close to the offer that Real Madrid made for Vieira last year. Arsenal will also hold out for the deal to be cash-based rather than structured over the length of Vieira's contract.

As a long-term replacement for Vieira, Diarra has been one of the players that the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, has tracked for some time and he could get the Malian international for a fraction of the fee Juventus would be prepared to pay. The 25-year-old had already played in Greece and the Netherlands before he joined Lyon where he played in midfield with Michael Essien, who looks set to join Chelsea.

The money generated by the sale of Vieira would give Arsenal the opportunity to once again test Seville's resolve to hold on to the Brazilian striker Julio Baptista who is rated at around £11m. They will also have to make a decision on the future of Robert Pires this summer who has rejected a one-year extension to his contract that runs out in a year's time.

The agent of the French winger claimed yesterday that Juventus had also expressed an interest in the 32-year-old, but so far only the Turkish club Galatasaray have publicly expressed their intention to bid for Pires. Stéphane Courbis, Pires's agent, is reported to have said that his client's wages were £2.75m a year and that the player was not interested in playing in Turkey.

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