Arsenal

Goalkeeper Very Much Up For Grabs

Speculation began to mount at the turn of the year regarding the future of Fiorentina’s number one goalkeeper, Sebastien Frey.

While the winter transfer window was in full swing, Giovanni Branchini, the French goalkeeper’s agent, couldn’t deny reports of negotiations between his client and Manchester United.

Despite the keeper being freshly jotted down as a candidate to replace Van Der Sar, the shot-stopper was then also linked with Arsenal in April as pressure mounted on Arsene Wenger to find a man to bring stability between the Gunners’ goalposts.

According to an Italian source, Arsenal had some seriously stiff competition to secure the 30-year-old’s signature. Bayern Munich and Juventus had similarly joined the race which had been previously fronted by Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

“Fiorentina are not willing to negotiate before May,” came the reply to enquiries from Branchini.

And here we are in June with another – perhaps improbable – suitor for Fiorentina’s number one: Aston Villa are apparently contemplating submitting a formalized bid for the Frenchman within the next few weeks.

Frey, who has been in Florence since 2005 (including a loan move), has recently refused to sign a new contract with the Viola citing ‘new motivations’ for a move away from the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

The Frenchman, who began his career at French outfit Cannes, has long been an aficionado of Italian football since first playing in the country at the age of 18. Frey’s first experience of Italian football saw him appear over 30 times for Inter Milan before moving onto Parma with Portugese winger Sergio Conceicao moving in the opposite direction. During a successful tenure at Parma he guided his side to the 2001-02 Coppa Italia.

Frey then joined Fiorentina on loan in 2005 before securing a permanent deal in 2006.

This season his ten clean sheets couldn’t prevent the Viola falling to 11th place in the scudetto; nor was he able to help his side progress beyond the first knockout stages of the Champions League – cruelly going out on away goals to eventual German double-winners Bayern Munich.

With Brad Friedel now 39, Martin O’Neill may look to Frey as a steady pair of hands to take over from the American. A fee of around £6m should secure the signature of the acclaimed goalkeeper.

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