In-focus: Santi Cazorla

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Reports that Arsenal have agreed terms with Malaga's attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla over a prospective switch to north London would represent a considerable transfer coup for Arsene Wenger, during a summer window that has been overshadowed by the saga surrounding Robin van Persie.

The 27-year-old Spanish international has a €45million buy-out clause written into his current contract, but the precarious financial situation of the La Liga outfit - which could see them relegated if they do not pay thier outstanding debts - might force Malaga to accept the Gunners' cut-price €20million offer.

Irrespective of whether their want-away captain departs the Emirates Stadium ahead of the new campaign, Cazorla should be regarded as a must-have acquisition.

Arguably the best player in Spain not playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona, the talented winger is quick, fleet-footed, and possesses great vision and technique. His ability to play in a number of positions, as a narrow attacker coming in from right or left, or as the creative fulcrum behind the striker, makes him well-suited to Wenger's preferred system.

The additions of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud are quality signings, sure to excite the Arsenal faithful, whilst also complementing the club's existing crop of attacking talents like Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho. But, Cazorla is on another level entirely.

A product of the Real Oviedo youth academy, Cazorla joined Villarreal B in 2003-04. After being shipped out to Recreativo de Huelva on a season-long loan deal a year later, at 21, he signed permanently in a €600,000 deal, with Villarreal exercising its €1.2million buyback clause the following summer.

By no means a goalscoring midfielder, Cazorla scored a modest 28 goals in five seasons after his return to The Yellow Submarine, but his creative impact on the pitch, and influence in the dressing room was invaluable.

Cazorla was nicknamed "our Ronaldinho" by his Villarreal team-mates, because, they said, he was just as ugly, just as funny, and just as good at football as Barcelona's Brazilian magician. Quite a comparison, I'm sure you will agree?

On the international stage, Cazorla had already become a key player from the bench as Spain won Euro 2008, playing in every group game, in the quarter-final against Italy, and in the 1-0 final victory against Germany.

Injury ruled him out of the World Cup in South Africa two years ago, but Cazorla was made very much part of the post-tournament celebrations, as Vicente del Bosque's champions commemorated another success in 2010.

In 2011, Cazorla ended his stay at El Madrigal when he moved to Malaga in a €19million deal. The Qatari-owned club has invested more than €150million over the past two years in an attempt to break the La Liga duopoly held by Barcelona and Madrid, and establish Los Boquerones as a Spanish heavyweight.

But, 12 months after Cazorla's arrival, and all is not well on the Costa del Sol. The winger wants to leave after wages went unpaid during the 2011-12 campaign, and promises made by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani were broken.

The sale of Cazorla would represent the swiftest way for the club to cover their current debts, with the inability to sign players and potential revoke of their UEFA licence and Champions League participation, likely to be far more damaging. With the club now facing an uncertain future, Malaga's short-term loss stands to be Arsenal's long-term gain.



Fresh from Spain's record-breaking Euro 2012 winning campaign, Cazorla has made it clear to his advisors he sees his future away from Andalusia, and would relish the chance to test himself in the Premier League.

For a player that would not look out of his depth at the very best clubs in the world, the opportunity for Wenger to sign a player of Cazorla's quality for a fee - albeit a club record one - that adheres to Arsenal's stringent transfer policy is rare, and one that shouldn't take too much deliberating.

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