Sunday, June 8, 2008

Santa Can Be Adebayor's Replacement

Arsene Wenger is prepared to make a £12 million bid for Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz to prevent his side falling apart as he contemplates losing Emmanuel Adebayor to AC Milan in a £30m move.

Adebayor's relationship with Arsenal has become so fraught that it seems inevitable that Wenger will allow him to leave, assuming that Milan come up with the money.

Mathieu Flamini has already left on a free transfer to the Italians while Alexander Hleb has agreed a deal with Barcelona and is waiting for the clubs to fix a fee.

Wenger insists the Togo striker will stay at Arsenal but the player has infuriated directors by demanding more than £80,000 a week.

Arsenal are prepared to fight Manchester United for Santa Cruz, a clear sign that the departure of Adebayor is being considered. Paraguay striker Santa Cruz, 26, has been a revelation in his first season in the Premier League, scoring 19 goals in 37 appearances.

Despite costing only £3.7m from Bayern Munich last season, the player's value has soared and, with three years left of a fouryear contract, he will not be easy to prise from Ewood Park.

It is hoped Santa Cruz's arrival, along with Marseille's £11m midfielder Samir Nasri, will go some way to appeasing key players, Cesc Fabregas, Kolo Toure and Robin van Persie, who are alarmed by the departure of Flamini and the probable exit of Hleb.

Adebayor also looks certain to go unless he makes a dramatic U-turn and backs down in his contract talks. Despite having improved his contract last year, the Arsenal board were prepared to increase his salary to around £50,000 a week, but the club will not give in to what are seen as excessive demands.

Adebayor's agent Stephane Courbis declined to comment on the claims yesterday but it is understood that the striker sees himself as one of leading stars of the Premier League, having scored 24 League goals last season.

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