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By ESPN Staff

Henry to sign for Barcelona

MADRID, Spain -- Thierry Henry is leaving English club Arsenal to sign with Barcelona in one of European soccer's top transfers of the offseason.

Arsenal announced on Saturday it had reached an agreement with Barcelona for the transfer of Henry, its team captain.

"Arsenal Football Club can confirm that it has reached an agreement with Barcelona for the transfer of Thierry Henry. The deal is subject to a medical and the completion of formalities," the club said on its Web site.

Barcelona vice-president Ferran Soriano told radio Marca on Saturday: "We're optimistic we'll conclude the negotiations on Monday and we've told the player that too."

"I still must pass a medical [exam] on Monday but yes, I have chosen Barcelona," Henry told the French sports daily L'Equipe on Saturday. "I will sign there for the next four seasons."

"Nothing has been signed yet but both sides reached an agreement on Friday. I have chosen Barcelona for the football they play, for their history and their stadium," he added.

"I am sad to leave Arsenal. I would have stayed there for life. I didn't want things to happen that way but I'm also ready for a new challenge."

Henry said the fact that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger would not commit to extending his contract, which runs until 2008, had influenced his decision.

Henry pointed to his age, the Wenger aspect and the departure of team director David Dein in April as his reasons in an open letter in Britain's Sun newspaper.

"I respect [Wenger's] his decision and honesty but I will be 31 at the end of next season and I cannot take the chance to be there without Arsene Wenger and David Dein.

"David Dein is no longer there, and there is no denying the fact this has destabilised the team and the manager."

Dein left in April after a boardroom disagreement over U.S. tycoon Stan Kroenke, who has been increasing his shares in the club and has been rumored to be interested in mounting a takeover bid.

Henry was the focal point at Arsenal and their top scorer in four of the five Premier League seasons between 2001-06, though he spent much of the last campaign sidelined with injuries.

He turned down a move to Barcelona and signed a four-year contract with Arsenal after they lost to Frank Rijkaard's team in the 2006 Champions League final.

Henry was a member of the France squad that won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship. He has won 92 caps and scored 39 goals for France.

The prolific forward has been sidelined by a groin injury but said he would soon be back in action.

"I will be back in training in 15 days," he told L'Equipe. "Barcelona resume around July 20. That leaves me with three weeks to prepare myself well."

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.