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Arsenal close in on deal for France midfielder Yann M’Vila

ARSENAL are close to making another major statement of intent for next season by sealing a club record €22m (£17.7m) deal for France midfielder Yann M’Vila.

Having confirmed the £11m signing of Lukas Podolski last week, Arsenal are in advanced negotiations with Rennes for their 21-year-old holding midfielder.

There had also been interest in M’Vila from Inter Milan, but the expectation in France is that he will now sign for Arsenal after being convinced by Wenger’s vision for the club.

It is unlikely, however, that any deal will be finalised before the end of the season, placing even more importance on beating West Bromwich Albion on Sunday and so clinching third place and Champions League football for a 16th consecutive season.

As revealed by the Telegraph Sport in March, reinforcing the holding midfield position is a priority this summer for Wenger and M’Vila has always been the preferred target. Indeed, Arsenal also made an enquiry last summer but were told that M’Vila was not for sale.

That situation has since changed, with Rennes resigned to selling their star player this summer.

While the form of Alex Song has delighted Wenger, there is also an appreciation that Arsenal do lack experienced cover in this position.

As well as M’Vila, Atheltic Bilbao midfielder Javi Martinez has been scouted.

Although Arsenal have no shortage of emerging central midfielders, the concern is that Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby are all players who also like to push forward.

Song’s defensive qualities have made him a regular over the past four seasons – and he is likely to be offered a significantly improved contract later this year – but there has been a lack of obvious cover.

Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin are both highly promising but largely still unproven at the very highest level. The addition of a player like M’Vila would also give Wenger the option of sometimes playing with two holding midfielders.

Wenger is keen to get his transfer business concluded swiftly this summer and so avoid a repeat of last year when he lost both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri after the Premier League season had already started.

There is also the hope that the arrival of major signings like Podolski and M’Vila will have a positive knock-on effect for the forthcoming contract negotiations with Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott. Arsenal’s current transfer record is the £15m that was spent on Andrei Arshavin.

Meanwhile, Yossi Benayoun has revealed he wants to end his loan move from Chelsea by helping the Gunners finish third in the Barclays Premier League, with automatic Champions League qualification set to provide a boost for their summer recruitment drive.

Reports today suggested they were on the brink of completing what would be a club record £17.7m signing of Rennes star M'Vila, who has long been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal appear to be succeeding in conducting their summer transfer business early this year, having been accused of panic signings at the end of the August window after selling Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.

Benayoun was one of the new arrivals but has proven a useful addition to the squad in recent months as the Gunners have fought back from a horrendous start to the season to move to the brink of qualifying for the Champions League once more.

The final game of Benayoun's loan spell comes at West Brom on Sunday, where Arsenal need to win to be certain of finishing third.

That could also help deny Benayoun's parent club, Chelsea, a top-four spot but the 32-year-old Israel captain could not care less.

"Since I came to Arsenal, I have always been committed to one club until the last game of the season," he told the Gunners' official website, www.arsenal.com.

"The only thing I want is for Arsenal to finish in third place - I don't care about anybody else.

"When I finish I will have to decide about my future.

"I am supposed to go back to Chelsea first and then we will see what the future holds."

Benayoun was pleased with how his loan spell had worked out, adding: "I finish here in a good way.

"In the last few months, I have been more involved.

"Of course, you want to play and you want to enjoy it and I think I have played a big part in the last few games.

"You always remember the end and I am happy with my performances in the last few months."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger must now decide whether to try to make Benayoun's move permanent but his attention is said to be currently focused on fending off reported interest from Inter Milan in number one target M'Vila.