Vieira camp to hold talks with Real Madrid today

Patrick Vieira's advisors have set up a meeting today with officials from Real Madrid, who are preparing to make a £30m offer for the Arsenal captain.

Patrick Vieira's advisors have set up a meeting today with officials from Real Madrid, who are preparing to make a £30m offer for the Arsenal captain.

Florentino Perez, who was re-elected as Real president on Sunday, has given the go-ahead for the deal after talks with the club's new coach, Jose Antonio Camacho. Real's negotiators have moved into action, with talks planned with Vieira's camp today in Spain.

The move will hinge on whether Vieira, rated the best midfielder in the world by Perez, is willing to leave the Gunners. Arsenal could hold out - as they did a year ago, when Chelsea tried for the Frenchman - but on that occasion they had the player in their corner. However, the glamour of Madrid and the world's most prestigous club may prove too much for Vieira to resist.

Perez has promised the fans a galactico in return for their voting him back into office and Vieira is now the clear first choice ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney. There is also the possibility of David Beckham being thrown into the equation as a makeweight - and the England captain might even be interested.

However, Arsenal would prefer to sell and have their choice of replacement. A bid for the Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is likely to be their first move.

Elsewhere, the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was reassured yesterday that he will have the final say over who leaves the club.

There has been speculation that there could be an Old Trafford cull to fund a bid for Wayne Rooney, but United's chief executive David Gill said that the manager's approval would be needed on any departure.

Gill also said the club was maintaining a watching brief round Europe as the search for an eventual successor to Sir Alex begins.

"We keep our eye on the managers coming through but it is a difficult process because whoever the hot star is today is maybe a cold star tomorrow," he said.

United unveiled their new fitness coach yesterday - the man Beckham blamed for his tiredness at Euro 2004.

Valter di Salvo, a 40-year-old Italian, will join after working in Madrid with Carlos Queiroz, who is returning to Old Trafford as Ferguson's No 2 following a year as Real coach. Di Salvo likes to use high-tech methods to measure fitness and will produce individual computerised programmes for every player.

United may be without two key players for the start of the season, thanks to the Olympics.

The £6m Argentinian signing Gabriel Heinze has been shortlisted in his country's 30-man provisional squad as one of three permitted overage players. Cristiano Ronaldo's displays at Euro 2004, meanwhile, have made him almost certain to be called up for the Portugal squad.

Both players would miss the first three Premiership games of the season, and with an international weekend scheduled for the end of August, they would not be available until the game against Bolton on 11 September.

The United striker Eddie Johnson, 19, has joined Coventry on a season's loan. He joins Neil Wood, who left Old Trafford last week to sign a two-year deal at Highfield Road.

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