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By ESPN Staff

Cole completes Chelsea transfer, Gallas to Arsenal

LONDON, Sep 1 (Reuters) - England defender Ashley Cole moved from Arsenal to Chelsea on Thursday with French defender William Gallas moving in the opposite direction to bring to an end one of English soccer's most protracted transfer sagas.

A statement on the Chelsea web site said the Premier League champions would pay Arsenal £5 million and transfer Gallas in return for Cole, with both players having agreed personal terms and passed medicals.

The move, which was first mooted as long ago as January 2005 when Cole secretly met Chelsea representatives, was completed just minutes before the close of the transfer window.

Cole, 25, who joined Arsenal as a trainee and signed professional terms as a 17-year-old, will join up with his new club after returning from duty with England who play Euro 2008 qualifiers against Andorra and Macedonia over the next six days.

'Chelsea and Arsenal have agreed terms for the transfers of Ashley Cole and William Gallas,' the clubs said in a joint statement.

'Chelsea will also pay Arsenal 5 million pounds. Both players have agreed personal terms and passed their respective medicals.'

The move, first mooted as long ago as January 2005 when Cole secretly met Chelsea representatives, was completed just minutes before the close of the transfer window.

The 25-year-old Cole, who joined Arsenal as a trainee in 1998, will link up with his new club after returning from duty with England, who play Euro 2008 qualifiers against Andorra and Macedonia over the next six days.

The England defender had long been expected to leave the Gunners, following the `tapping-up' scandal when Cole was guilty of meeting Chelsea officials in a London hotel.

Relations between Arsenal and Chelsea have been distinctly cold since then, and the player's position seemed untenable having criticised the Gunners in extracts from his soon-to-be-published book.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insisted the club would only sell if the deal was right for them - and had intimated he would have no qualms about bringing the defender back into the fold should he still be at the club come Friday morning.

That, though, is now an uncomfortable scenario Wenger will not have to face as he continues first-team plans this season without a player regarded as one of the best left-backs in the world.

Cole's great pace, aggressive tackling and neat distribution made him a fixture in the Arsenal back line and he played over 200 games for the north London club.

He has won 51 international caps and replaces Asier del Horno in Jose Mourinho's squad following the Spanish international's move to Valencia in July.

Gallas, 29, joined Chelsea in 2001 from Olympique Marseille for £6.2 million and was an integral part of the team that won the Premier League title in 2005 and 2006.

The speedy defender, equally at home in central defence or at full back, played in the World Cup final for France in July and will join compatriots Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, and international team mate Thierry Henry at the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger was short of experienced defenders following the departure of England's Sol Campbell to Portsmouth and Frenchman Pascal Cygan to Villareal for £2million.