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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 12:19 GMT
Real in Gunners link
Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira
Vieira and Pires are key players for Arsenal
Spanish giants Real Madrid were reported on Friday to be ready to bid 35m for Arsenal's French stars Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires.

The London Evening Standard said the nine-times European champions were waiting to step in if contract talks between the French internationals and Arsenal broke down.

Vieira and Pires each have one year left on their current contracts - although both have said they want to stay at Arsenal.

Pires chose Arsenal ahead of Real when he left Marseille in the summer of 2000 in a 5m deal and there has been regular speculation linking Vieira with a move to the Champions League holders.

If Real's swoop was successful the pair would link up with France team-mate Zinedine Zidane, the world's most expensive player.

Pires has been negotiating a new contract since he made his comeback from a knee injury last October.

Arsenal will not allow Pires and Vieira to become free agents which would be the case should they stick to their current contracts.

If agreement is not reached this summer then Arsenal would have to cash in on both stars rather than risk losing them for nothing next summer.

Real have broken the world transfer record twice in the last three years with the signings of first Portuguese star Luis Figo and then Zidane for around 48m.

And last year they spent around 30m on Brazilian superstar Ronaldo, despite a recession-hit transfer market.


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