Wenger ready to sign Van Persie

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Arsenal made their first bid of the winter yesterday, but those expecting West Ham United's Jermain Defoe or Aston Villa's Juan Pablo Angel to be heading for Highbury were caught by surprisewhen it emerged that the young Dutch forward Robin van Persie was Arsène Wenger's target.

The 20-year-old has already been the subject of one failed attempt by the Arsenal manager, and his club, Feyenoord, who rate him at close to £5m, are expecting a further offer. The Feyenoord general manager, Jan D Swart, said: "Feyenoord chairman Jorien van den Herik has reacted to a reasonable first offer by Arsenal, which forms the basis for further talks between the two parties. I expect this to happen this week."

The left-sided Van Persie, a Holland Under-21 international, has scored five League goals in 13 appearances this season and is rated in the top bracket of Dutch youngsters, along with Rafael van der Vaart at Ajax and PSV's Arjen Robben. Feyenoord are relecutant to allow him to leave, but he has warned the club that he will not sign an extension to his contract, which is due to expire in 2005.

Fulham have wasted little time in filling the void left by Louis Saha's departure by beating Blackburn Rovers to the signature of the American international Brian McBride.

The two-and-a-half-year deal is subject to a medical and the granting of a work permit, but the striker is expected to join from the Major League Soccer side Columbus Crew for an undisclosed fee. The 31-year-old, who has played in two World Cup finals, arrives as the French striker Saha prepares to join Manchester United.

Saha is expected to complete his move by the end of the week. Saha yesterday had a medical at Old Trafford after the club had agreed a deal in principle ­ thought to be worth around £12m ­ with Fulham.

McBride, who scored two goals at the last World Cup, already has Premiership experience after a loan spell at Everton last season, during which he scored eight goals. The Fulham manager, Chris Coleman, said: "[Brian] has superb aerial ability and has already proved that he can perform at the highest level."

The Rennes general manager, Pierre Dreossi, yesterday insisted that no deal has yet been agreed to sell the Czech international goalkeeper, Petr Cech, 21, to Chelsea for £9m. "The deal has not yet been sealed," he said. "We are still negotiating with Chelsea and I don't think it will be sorted before the end of the week ... It took us time to make Chelsea understand that there was no way we would let Petr go before the end of the season."

Another player Chelsea have yet to secure is Scott Parker, and last night Charlton Athletic turned down an improved offer of £7.5m for the midfielder. The Addicks last week rejected a £7m bid for the England international and Charlton's chief executive, Peter Varney, said: "The board unanimously felt that both £7m and £7.5m were unacceptable offers for the best young midfield player in the country."

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder Tomas Rosicky has said he would prefer to join Barcelona rather than sit on the bench at Chelsea. While Dortmund deny they have received a £20m bid from the London side, Rosicky said he has already spoken to the Catalan club about a transfer.

Ian Pearce has completed his move from West Ham to Fulham after undergoing a medical at Loftus Road. He was part of a player-plus-cash deal which also involved the Wales international Andy Melville going to Upton Park. West Ham compensated by signing the 19-year-old midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker from Wimbledon.