Vieira expected to become Real player by end of week

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The Independent Football

Patrick Vieira's agent was locked in talks yesterday amid speculation the Frenchman will be a Real Madrid player by the the end of the week.

Reports from Spain claim Arsenal have admitted defeat in their battle to hold on to their captain and have accepted a £22.1m bid. Vieira's representative, Steve Kutner, was believed to be putting the finishing touches to the deal but would not comment on the negotiations.

Vieira is expected to meet Arsène Wenger's transfer deadline by signing for the Spanish side before the end of the week.

Wenger had told the 28-year-old to make up his mind over his future before the start of the Premiership season this weekend. Arsenal refused to comment again yesterday but leading media organisations in the Spanish capital were convinced yesterday the Frenchman's arrival is imminent.

In the international arena, Vieira, who is still feeling the thigh strain he suffered during Euro 2004, has been selected by France for their friendly with Bosnia-Herzegovina in Rennes on Wednesday.

His fellow Gunners Thierry Henry and Robert Pires are also struggling with injuries. However, Pires is expected to recover from a calf strain and face Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday in Arsenal's Premiership opener, despite missing the Community Shield win over Manchester United.

But Henry remains a major doubt and could be out for 10 days, despite playing 45 minutes of the victory in Cardiff. It is likely that Wenger would seek to withdraw all three players from the France game - although of course that might be irrelevant in Vieira's case.

Arsenal may have dropped out of the running to sign Michael Carrick but five other clubs are still keen to sign him, according to the West Ham manager Alan Pardew.

The Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric has told his manager Harry Redknapp to pull out all the stops to sign the 23-year-old and may be ready to up the ante still further following a club record £3m bid after Arsenal decided not to follow up Wenger's admitted interest with an offer.

Newly promoted Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion have already made bids for Carrick while Everton are also believed to be interested. Portsmouth's need is now urgent after a contingency plan to buy Greece's Euro 2004-winning Angelis Basinas from Panathinaikos fell through.

Mandaric's £2m offer for the player, who missed a penalty in last Saturday's goalless friendly between the two clubs at Fratton Park, has been rejected and now the Greek League transfer deadline has been reached.

Pardew said: "We don't want Michael to go anywhere and would love him to sign a new contract but I can't see it happening. There are five clubs still interested in signing him.

"If he stays to the end of the season he could walk out as a free agent. That could be a big problem financially for us.We can't afford to let that happen."

Carrick will be disappointed that Arsenal have not followed up their interest. Their entry into the race to sign him after Pompey believed they had almost sealed a deal angered Mandaric, who said: "They have been arrogant. If you do not want a player you should not declare an interest."

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