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No more tuxedos for Toon

The Toe Poke

Ranieri for manager of the year?

By ESPN Staff

Valencia defender Ayala to join Villarreal

MADRID, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Valencia's Argentine international centre-back Roberto Ayala has agreed to join regional rivals Villarreal on a three-year deal at the end of the season.

Villarreal released a statement on Wednesday saying the 33-year-old, who is free to negotiate with other clubs because his present deal finishes at the end of the season, had signed a contract with them until June 2010.

Ayala will set a new Argentine record of 107 appearances when he leads his side out for their friendly against France in Paris on Wednesday.

Last August he said he wanted to leave Valencia after accusing the president and sporting director Amedeo Carboni of backtracking on a promised contract renewal.

The club opened disciplinary proceedings against the defender, but the two sides patched up their differences and he has been a regular in the starting line-up once again this season.

Ayala began his career with Argentine side Ferro Carril Oeste, before joining River Plate in 1993.

His performance for the Argentine giants earned him a transfer to Italian side Napoli in 1995 where he remained for three seasons before signing for AC Milan.

Ayala joined Valencia in 2000 from AC Milan and since then has been the most influential player in the club's back four.

He played a vital role in helping the club reach the Champions League final in 2001, win the Spanish league title in 2002 and win both the league and UEFA Cup in 2004.

Villarreal also announced on Wednesday that they had reached an agreement to sign Chile under-20 international forward Mathias Vidangossy from Union Espanola.