Arshavin price must be lowered says agent

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The Independent Football

Zenit St Petersburg will have to lower their inflated demands for wantaway star midfielder Andrei Arshavin if they are to strike a deal with Arsenal during the transfer window.

The Russians yesterday suggested a £20m move for the 27-year-old playmaker, who shot to prominence during Euro 2008, was set to be concluded - with the Emirates Stadium his likely destination.

However, while Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has long been a fan of Arshavin, the Barclays Premier League club are not prepared to meet such a exaggerated price tag, in a package which would be further increased by the player's wage demands.

Arshavin is reported to have visited Arsenal's Hertfordshire training ground during a trip to England earlier this year, while it has also been claimed the player is in fact already in London to put the final touches to the move - which came as news to his representative, Dennis Lachter, who remains overseas and is in constant contact with his client.

While Zenit boss Dick Advocaat, the former Rangers manager, is resigned to losing Arshavin - who helped his side reach the Champions League group stages for the first time this season - Lachter maintains any talk of a done deal is premature.

"For now, there are not any negotiations going on, but I believe in the near future he will be on the move and that next week will bring some news," Lachter told PA Sport.

"I am sure that any club would be interested in the services of a quality player like Andrei, but it all depends on the money Zenit are asking for.

"However, I do not believe that they can get the money they want - the pound is going down and there is all this difficult financial situation which does not help."

While Zenit may well remain determined to hold out for a hefty fee, they could be forced to offload the unsettled player at a cut price - with Arshavin having threatened to invoke new Fifa regulations and buy out the remaining 18 months of his contract to become a free agent.

For their part, Arsenal are on the look out for a midfielder to bolster Wenger's options following the loss of captain Cesc Fabregas to injury, but will not be held to ransom.

The record signing of the traditionally prudent Gunners remains the £13m paid for Frenchman Sylvain Wiltord after Euro 2000 and a similar overall package for Spain winger Jose Antonio Reyes, with neither move proving successful in the long term.

Yet while Wenger maintained last week people were in "dreamland" if they thought the club would break the bank under the current gloomy economic outlook to land a star name just for the sake of it, he indicated they would be prepared to buy an "exceptional talent" - even if, like Arshavin, the player was cup-tied for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Arsenal have also been linked with Everton's Spain international Mikel Arteta - which Wenger rejected out of hand at last week's media conference.

However, when pressed on any interest in Arshavin, the Gunners manager was less abrasive, perhaps indicating he was hopeful of eventually landing his man.

"At the moment, there is no progress," he said ahead of last Saturday's FA Cup tie against Plymouth.

"If there is any progress made, you will be informed I promise you."

One Arsenal player hoping for a chance to impress in 2009 is Wales international Aaron Ramsey.

The midfielder, who only turned 18 on Boxing Day, started his eighth match for the Gunners in Saturday's 3-1 win over the Coca-Cola Championship side following a £5m summer move from Cardiff - whom his new club will face in round four.

Wenger, though, has urged for patience to be shown towards Ramsey and fellow promising teenager Jack Wilshere, now signed on professional forms.

"He can play in some games, but if you are asking me if he can play every week, every three days, I don't think he is ready yet," said Wenger.

"But he shows that he has the quality, that he can do it soon. I really think he will be a great player."

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