The Spain winger Santi Cazorla has agreed terms to join Arsenal and leave Málaga this summer. Arsène Wenger is keen to sign Cazorla, whom he monitored last summer, and he is hopeful that an offer of €20m (£15.6m) can close the deal with a basic agreement in place with the player.
Negotiations have taken place between the clubs and, although Málaga's initial response was to point to Cazorla's €45m buy-out clause and effectively discourage Arsenal's interest, the Spanish club's worrying financial situation, which could see them relegated if they do not pay outstanding debts, might force them to sell.
Arsenal's summer business has been overshadowed by the Robin van Persie saga, with the captain intent on leaving the Emirates Stadium. Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus have made bids, which have been rejected by Arsenal, who will hold out for at least £20m, and the race for his signature is hotting up.
Juventus have been back in contact with Arsenal and they have indicated that they will pay close to the £20m asking price while they could also offer Van Persie an extraordinary contract worth £190,000 a week after tax. Arsenal, if pushed, would prefer to sell to an overseas club but they are preparing for an improved offer from United. Both Manchester clubs have so far offered about £12m.
Wenger has already signed the strikers Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud and the addition of Cazorla would give him another attacking option. He is expected to sell Andrey Arshavin, with clubs in the middle east having expressed an interest, but he would still have Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho in wide areas, although he has experimented with the latter through the middle in pre-season training.
Cazorla wants to leave Málaga, the club he joined for €19m last summer from Villarreal, after wages went unpaid during the campaign and promises were broken. The 27-year-old has told Málaga of his intention to depart and he has also spoken to Arsenal to tell them he is keen on joining them.
Málaga may facilitate the move but the power vacuum and inertia at the club means that the future is uncertain. If Málaga's Qatari owner, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani, does not inject more money, the sale of Cazorla would represent the swiftest way for the Spanish club to cover their debts. If Málaga do not settle those debts by 31 July they face relegation to Second Division B and the loss of their Uefa licence and Champions League participation.
Considering the wealth of the owners and the more than €150m poured into the club over the past two years, Málaga's inertia is baffling. Theoretically, al-Thani could resolve the crisis at a stroke. Sources at the club say that his methods are "different" and that they would not be surprised if the money turned up at the last minute but they cannot count on that. While the debt is outstanding, the Spanish league will not allow them to make any signings.
Cazorla is one of four players, alongside Ruud van Nistelrooy, Salomón Rondón and Joris Mathijsen, who threatened to make a formal complaint against Málaga during a meeting with the president of the Spanish players' union, the AFE, José Luis Rubiales, on 13 July.
After the meeting, Rubiales insisted that an "important" amount of money was still owed to some players but that others had been paid in full. The club reassured the players but, if a lasting agreement is not reached, a meeting can be scheduled on 25 July between the AFE, on the players' behalf, and the LFP (La Liga), on behalf of the club, to reach a resolution.
Villarreal claim Málaga also owe the €3.5m outstanding on the sale of Cazorla, while the Spanish tax authorities are demanding almost €7m. Public debt is not unusual for Spanish clubs but Miguel Cardenal, the president of the Supreme Sports Council, the CSD, introduced a new zero-tolerance policy in April. Both the league and the AFE signed the agreement, according to which clubs with outstanding debts other than previously accrued debts for which payment plans have already been agreed, face automatic relegation.
Since buying the club and becoming president, Al-Thani has invested over €60m in playersand taken Málaga to Champions League qualification for the first time. Now, though, there is silence. Neither the owner nor his vice-president are currently in Spain, as has been the case for much of the last year, leaving Málaga in limbo. José Carlos Pérez, the club's consejero, essentially the man running the day-to-day business, died in the spring and the general manager, Fernando Hierro, who had been forced to intervene last season when players had gone unpaid, resigned saying he was no longer "comfortable" in his role.
Meanwhile the Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner is in talks with Galatasaray.