Young Gunner Flamini agrees to join Milan
Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini has agreed to join Milan, and the Premier League club also face a crucial meeting over Alexander Hleb's future later this week, WRITES JASON BURT.
Arsene Wenger seems likely to lose half of his first-choice midfield, Hleb having been offered a huge four-year contract by Internazionale. The loss of the pair would be a severe blow for Wenger, who has set Flamini a deadline of the end of this month to decide his future after making what he described as a "decent" improved offer to the 24-year-old Frenchman, whose contract runs out on June 30.
It had appeared that Juventus were favourites to sign him but they have been outbid by Milan, who are willing to pay Flamini £4m a year, a figure which includes a significant signing-on fee spread over a five-year contract. Milan see Flamini as the eventual replacement for Gennaro Gattuso -- the Arsenal midfielder has been nicknamed after the Italian by his team-mates.
Over the weekend, Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti went on the club's television channel to speak of his admiration for Flamini, especially after the way he performed against Milan in the Champions League earlier this season.
Flamini, whose father Roland is Italian and who has relatives in Rome, is free to talk to other clubs because his contract has almost expired. He has made it clear he wants a more lucrative offer than that which has been tabled by Arsenal, where he has felt undervalued for some time. Wenger has urged Flamini not to leave for a "few bucks".
Belarussian Hleb has been offered an impressive deal by Inter but will hold talks with Arsenal this week. He is understood to be concerned that Arsenal have again failed to win a trophy. The Italian champions have openly declared their interest in a player who has two years left on his present deal but article 17 of Fifa's regulations would allow him to leave for a fixed fee. This is likely to be significantly less than the £11.2m Arsenal paid Stuttgart for him back in 2005.
The Gunners play Derby tonight and Flamini is a doubtful participant thanks to an ankle injury. Wenger may give a League debut to goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
Derby v Arsenal, live, Setanta Sports 1, 8.0