Pires in talks with MLS side Philadelphia Union
Major League Soccer newcomers the Philadelphia Union have confirmed they are in talks to sign Villarreal midfielder Robert Pires when he becomes a free agent in the summer transfer window.
Pires could join former Arsenal 'Invincibles' team-mate and MLS convert Freddie Ljungberg in the United States should he decide to make the move to one of world football's developing markets.
The player has said he would like a new deal with Villarreal but Union boss Peter Nowak confirmed to the Philadelphia Daily News that signing the French player as one the team's two permitted Designated Players - the majority of whose salaries are exempt from the MLS salary cap - was a possibility for the club in its inaugural season.
"There has been confirmation on both sides, I will go on record with that,'' Nowak said. "I believe that a player like Pires with a great pedigree and a great background could be a role model for these young players. But I don't like the name 'designated player', I think the term is artificial. Either you are a good player or a bad player.''
Philadelphia's interest was confirmed to the Daily News by the 36-year-old's American agent Memed Djemmal, although the club would have to have any new contract ratified by the MLS.
"The league is definitely interested, there is currently a large number of teams on board and Philadelphia is one of them,'' Djemmal said. "We were first contacted by the team in February, and there has been back and forth since. It's a matter of the transfer window in July, but right now, I'd say it's 50-50 at this point. He's a big player and a lot of teams are interested.''
Pires' former Arsenal team-mate Ljungberg moved to the Seattle Sounders from West Ham as a Designated Player 15 months ago while another Gunners old boy, Thierry Henry, has been regularly linked with a move from Barcelona to the New York Red Bulls after this summer's World Cup.