West Brom snap up Kanu for free

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The Independent Football

West Bromwich Albion have secured the services of Kanu on a free transfer from Arsenal. The Nigerian striker has signed a three-year deal after passing a medical and agreeing personal terms.

West Bromwich Albion have secured the services of Kanu on a free transfer from Arsenal. The Nigerian striker has signed a three-year deal after passing a medical and agreeing personal terms.

Kanu, who will be 28 tomorrow and is Albion's sixth close-season signing, joined Arsenal from Internazionale for £4.5m five-and-a-half years ago. He was followed into the Hawthorns yesterday by the Hungary captain Zoltan Gera, signed for £1.5m on a three-year deal from Ferencvaros.

Kanu, who scored 44 goals in 198 matches for the Gunners, was not offered a new contract to replace the one that expired in June. He is believed to have taken a considerable pay cut to join the Baggies.

Kanu, who rarely uses his first name Nwankwo, became famous as the player who built a sparkling career despite needing heart surgery to repair a faulty valve soon after joining Inter from Ajax in 1996. He still presides over the the Kanu Heart Foundation charity which aids children with cardiac problems. He earned a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games playing for Nigeria in Atlanta, having already captured a 1993 world under-17 championship with his country.

He has twice been named African Footballer of the Year but his biggest coup was winning the European Cup with Ajax when they beat Milan in the 1995 final in Vienna

With Arsenal he collected the Premiership and FA Cup double in 2002, adding another FA Cup winner's medal a year later when he was on the substitutes' bench.

The arrival of, first, Thierry Henry and more recently Robert Pires and Jose Antonio Reyes restricted Kanu's opportunities, but he still made enough appearances last season to earn a second Premiership title medal.

"We're obviously delighted Kanu has decided to join us," the Albion manager Gary Megson said. "I felt it was important we signed this type of player as I think it takes us forward not just one step but quite a few steps."

Meanwhile, the Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has said the champions may have to start the season without Henry, Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell.

"I am very concerned because these players came back from Euro 2004 much later than the others," said Wenger. "I expected them to start the season without being 100 per cent but now we could be missing all three key players [against Everton on 15 August``]. Campbell is definitely out, Patrick has the best chance of playing but Thierry is a big doubt."

Henry and Campbell have Achilles problems while Vieira, the subject of speculation linking him with a move to Real Madrid, has a thigh injury.

"The pitches were very hard in Portugal. It is a big frustration," added Wenger. "This is a grey area that has not been sorted out between the clubs and the national teams. This is the price we pay for the European Championship."

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