By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer
Real Madrid's annual move for Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira is gathering pace, with a fee thought to have been agreed and a deal set to go through.
Re-elected Real president Florentino Perez made it his stated intention to sign Vieira after labelling him the best player in the world in his position.
Arsenal, Real and Vieira are all staying silent as the countdown to his departure gathers pace, but as the transfer draws nearer, what are the factors that has persuaded Vieira to go? And how will Arsenal cope without him?
THE HOLY GRAIL
Namely the Champions League.
Vieira has won the World Cup and Euro 2000 with France, but the biggest club prize of all has always eluded him.
Arsenal looked in perfect shape to finally win the trophy last season until they slipped at the quarter-final stage against Premiership rivals Chelsea.
Vieira has clearly decided those ambitions would be better served at the Bernabeu than Highbury.
Arsenal must surely come good soon, but Real's ambition and proven track record of success in the competition holds the key.
THE ZZ FACTOR
The grapevine suggests Zidane has been a prime mover in the latest concerted attempt by Real to secure Vieira's services, with rumours claiming he is the man who has told his France team-mate it is time for a change of scenery.
It is unquestionable that the prospect of playing alongside Zidane in Real's midfield and re-unifying their French partnership is attractive.
But he will be leaving behind trusted French colleagues at Highbury.
DO ARSENAL NEED THE MONEY?
Arsenal are building a new £357m stadium at Ashburton Grove, but they do not need to sell players and would always keep men like Vieira and Henry rather than cash in.
The money for the stadium is in place, with £260m secured via a stadium facilities banking group and £97m raised by the club itself through Granada, Nike and sale of land.
However, most clubs eventually decide they have to sell a player if he decides it is time to leave.
CAN ANYONE REPLACE VIEIRA?
Knowing Wenger's expertise, he will not have been caught off guard by this deal, and will have a replacement in mind.
But bearing in mind Vieira's inspirational and influence, only a player of the highest quality would suffice.
There were whispers earlier this summer that Arsenal were poised to try and hijack Chelsea's move for Steven Gerrard - although the Liverpool captain eventually snubbed all interested parties to remain at Anfield.
Now Maniche appears close to a move to Highbury from European champions Porto, but the star of Portugal's Euro 2004 campaign knows he has a big task to replace the Frenchman in the affections of the Arsenal crowd.