Liverpool 'to beat Arsenal' to signing of £9m Italy defender

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Liverpool are set to win the race to sign Inter Milan starlet Davide Santon, according to

The Reds have reportedly already held talks over a potential deal for the 19-year-old and more discussions are scheduled to take place next week.

Arsenal, however, are also thought to be planning to speak to the representatives of the Italy international when they fly to England but Liverpool remain the frontrunners for his signature.

A deal for Santon would only add to the famed stable of 'kids' at Arsenal and Arsene Wenger has long been renowned for his ability to identify and develop teenage prodigies - with the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere testament to the talents of the Gunners boss and his academy staff.

Wenger is understood to want to bring the cream of young European talent to the Emirates Stadium as he looks to leave a lasting legacy with Arsenal should he eventually leave the Gunners.

Arsenal have also been linked with Ipswich wonderkid Connor Wickham and Israeli sensation Omri Altman as Wenger continues to build a squad for the future.

Likewise, new Liverpool owners New England Sports Ventures (NESV) have identified the development of young players at their academy as a priority - tasking director of football strategy Damien Comolli with bringing precocious stars to Anfield.

Comolli is renowned for having an eye for talent in its infancy and is believed to have been closely monitoring Santon with a view to bringing him to Liverpool during the transfer window.

The Italian is unsettled in Milan after falling out of favour with Rafa Benitez and - despite the former Liverpool boss having departed the San Siro last month - Santon is thought to still be keen on a move to the Premier League.

Santon is extremely versatile and can play at full back on either flank as well as in a more advanced role; something which could see him succeed either Glen Johnson or Paul Konchesky, both of whom could reportedly leave Liverpool this month.

And, with plenty of room to improve and develop, he would fit with the ethos of NESV in their quest to bring talented youngsters to Liverpool as they look to create a squad to challenge for future honours.

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