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By ESPN Staff

Saviola flies to Madrid to close deal with Real

MADRID, July 12 (Reuters) - Argentina striker Javier Saviola said he was looking forward to starting a new era as a Real Madrid player, in an interview with the Spanish champions' official Web site on Thursday.

The 25-year-old was out of contract with Barcelona, having turned down their offer of an extension, and flew to Madrid earlier in the day to complete his move to their arch-rivals.

He is set to be presented after taking a medical and signing a four-year contract on Friday.

"The talks started a while ago. Since they got underway the intention has always been to come to Real Madrid. When both parties are keen it is easy to reach an agreement," Saviola told www.realmadrid.com.

"I am very happy. I believe I am coming to one of the best institutions in the world and that is very pleasing. I have to put the past behind me. Now I am in another very important club."

He follows in the footsteps of Bernd Schuster - the new Real coach who reportedly pressured the club to secure his services - Michael Laudrup and Luis Figo in making the rare move across Spain to Barcelona's number one rivals.

Saviola joined Barca from River Plate for $28 million in 2001 but dropped down the pecking order when Frank Rijkaard became coach of the Catalan team in 2003.

The Argentine was loaned to Monaco in 2004 and spent the 2005/06 season at Sevilla before returning to Barcelona having missed out on Barca's two league titles and their European Cup success last year.

Although he turned in some impressive performances last season, especially in the King's Cup where he scored seven goals, Saviola fell out of the reckoning again towards the end of the campaign, and decided to leave.