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Barcelona makes bold move for Villa

DAVID Villa appeared closer to signing with Barcelona following a reported meeting yesterday with the Spanish champion's sporting director Txiki Begiristain.

The Valencia striker, who has just returned from playing for Spain at the Confederations Cup, ate with Begiristain yesterday according to newspaper El Comercio. It said an agreement in principal had been reached between the club and the player.

Chelsea and Manchester United are also vying for the 27-year-old striker's services, with Real Madrid pulling out of the running last week after balking at Valencia's reported asking fee of 50 million euros (US$70 million).

Villa scored three goals for Spain at the World Cup warmup event in South Africa, and is coming off a season in which he scored 28 goals - the third best tally in the league.

Meanwhile, Manchester United did sign Antonio Valencia from Wigan on Tuesday as it looks to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo's departure to Real.

The 23-year-old Ecuador winger has a four-year contract, becoming manager Alex Ferguson's first offseason signing as he targets a fourth straight Premier League title.

Financial details weren't disclosed, but the Red Devils reportedly spent 17 million pounds (US$30 million) to get Valencia.

"Antonio is a player we have admired for some time now, having spent the last two years in the Premier League with Wigan," Ferguson said. "I am sure his pace and ability will make a significant contribution to the team."

Valencia has played 34 times for his country, scoring four goals.

"Joining Manchester United is a dream come true for me," Valencia said. "I have enjoyed my time at Wigan, but I am thrilled to have the chance to challenge for the biggest honors in club football here.

City calls for patience

Also yesterday, Manchester City manager Mark Hughes said the club may need to show patience in its bid to bring Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o to the Premier League.

"We have made an offer but there appears to be a situation between the player and his club that we cannot be part of," Hughes said. "We just have to sit back and see what develops. Patience is a word that has been mentioned and we may need some of it."

Eto'o's agent Josep Maria Mesalles told a Spanish radio station on Monday that the player would see out the final year of his contract before leaving Barcelona on a free transfer next year.

City have reportedly offered Barcelona 25 million pounds for the Cameroon striker in a deal that would earn him around 10 million pounds a year, making him the highest-paid player in the world.

Hughes also said that City remains keen to sign striker Carlos Tevez from Manchester United.


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