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Chelsea out to maul Black Cats

Chelsea 18 minutes ago
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By ESPN Staff
Aug 31, 2006

Arsenal agree Reyes Baptista swap deal

Real Madrid have confirmed the signing of Jose Antonio Reyes from Arsenal, with striker Julio Baptista heading in the opposite direction for undisclosed fees.

Reyes, who turns 23 on Friday, made no secret of his desire to head to the Bernabeu, and had not been selected by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger this season.

The winger - who joined from Sevilla in January 2004 and is under contract until 2011 - maintained he could not settle to life in England, and longed for a transfer home.

However, Gunners boss Wenger insisted the player would only be allowed to leave if the right deal came along - and last week branded an £8.1million bid from Atletico Madrid an 'insult'.

Reyes told Spanish radio station Radio Marca: 'Now that I have signed, I feel like the happiest man in the world. However, until I had signed, I was not calm.

'On Wednesday evening I was told everything had been done.

'Arsenal gave the okay and Baptista was travelling to London - then I began to believe it.'

Arsene Wenger has said he believes the arrival of Julio Baptista will give Arsenal a new dimension.

Wenger has kept a close watch on Baptista, 24, the versatile Brazilian who is able to play either as a striker or in an advanced midfield role.

Indeed, the Gunners tried to sign him a year ago, when instead the player opted for Real.

The willingness of the Spanish club in allowing Baptista to leave as part of the package is understood to have been central to Wenger freeing up Reyes, having constantly stated there was little he could do to orchestrate a move back home for the wantaway winger.

The terms of the deal remain somewhat unclear, with Arsenal maintaining Baptista had joined 'for an undisclosed fee' and Reyes heading to Real 'in a reverse move'.

Wenger clearly sees the Brazilian international as an integral part of his plans.

'Julio Baptista will be a great addition to our squad,' Wenger told the Arsenal website.

'He is a powerful young international and is a versatile footballer who can operate both in midfield and as a striker.

'He has shown his potential over the past few seasons in Spain with both Real Madrid and Sevilla and we are looking forward to him joining us.'

The Arsenal boss added diplomatically: 'While welcoming Julio, we would like to wish Jose the best of luck for his time in Spain.'

There was, meanwhile, little more for Wenger to say today on the departure of Cole.

Chelsea and Arsenal eventually issued a joint statement confirming Cole's protracted move had been completed at around 1:30am - long after the transfer deadline had passed.

Although the Gunners may not have secured the £25million-plus deal they were initially hoping for after it became clear the defender wanted out, the inclusion of William Gallas as part of the package will have at least provided Wenger with another option at the back.

With youngsters Justin Hoyte and Mathieu Flamini showing they have been capable deputies on the left side of defence, the experienced Frenchman, 29, offers Arsenal extra cover in the area while ready-made replacement Gael Clichy continues his recovery from a foot injury.

'I like the fact Gallas is a good defender,' Wenger had commented earlier this month.

'He can play right-back, left-back, centre-back.'

Both Gallas and Baptista could make their Arsenal debuts at home to Middlesbrough on September 9, when Wenger will be seeking his first Premiership win of the fledgling campaign having only picked up one point so far.

And with the opening Champions League group fixture in Hamburg to follow before the trip to Manchester United in a fortnight's time, Wenger knows if his re-jigged side are to challenge for honours again, he has to get the right blend on the pitch sooner rather than later.