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Arsenal launch bid for Mata

Arsenal have reportedly placed a club record £18 million bid for Valencia midfielder Juan Mata.

Mata starred in Spain's title-winning European Under-21 tilt and, with that tournament now complete, both the Daily Mail and The Sun claim the playmaker is ready to begin talks with the Gunners.

The Real Madrid youth product was also part of Spain's successful 2010 World Cup side, making a brief appearance off the bench against Honduras in the group stage.

Mata can play centrally or wide on the left, and it is believed that he may be groomed to take over Cesc Fabregas' midfield role, should the Arsenal skipper make a big money move to Barcelona in the summer. Arsene Wenger evidently rates the 23-year-old highly, and is willing to smash the club's previous record transfer fee of £13 million when bringing Andrei Arshavin to the Emirates from Zenit St Petersburg.

Wenger will need to move swiftly to secure Mata, though, as Kenny Dalglish has also shown interest in bringing the player to Liverpool.

Arsenal, meanwhile, will have another fight on their hands in order to snare Velez Sarsfield winger Ricardo Alvarez. New Inter Milan boss Gian Piero Gasperini has now identified the Argentinian as his primary summer recruitment target.

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