Arsenal confirm deal for Henry
LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal announced on Saturday they had reached an agreement with Barcelona for the transfer of France striker and club captain Thierry Henry.
"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 (www.arsenal.com).
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."
The 29-year-old is expected to sign a four-year contract with the Catalan club for an estimated 24 million euros (16 million pounds).
"I still must pass a medical on Monday but yes, I have chosen Barcelona," the France striker told 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.
"The fact that Arsene Wenger has decided not to extend his contract was another very important factor," he said.
Henry pointed to his age, the Wenger aspect and the departure of director David Dein in April as his reasons in an open letter to readers of the Sun.
"It's now or never for me -- sadly it has to be now," Henry was quoted as saying.
"Arsene Wenger has said that at this moment he will not commit to the club past the expiration of his current deal, which finishes at the end of this coming season.
"I respect 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 building a shareholding in the club and has been tipped to mount 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 injury.
He turned down a move to Barca 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."
(Additional reporting by Patrick Vignal in Paris and Mark Elkington in Madrid)
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