By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Arsenal will complete the signing of Petr Cech this week as Arsene Wenger finally lands the goalkeeper at the fourth attempt, Football Insider sources understand.
Cech is on the verge of joining from Chelsea to become the Gunners’ first signing of the summer after the two clubs agreed a fee of £11million.
As revealed by Football Insider, the 33-year-old agreed the terms of a three-year contract worth more than £100,000-a-week last month and the final hurdle to the transfer has been removed now that the west Londoners have given their blessing for him to move to Emirates Stadium.
The capture of Cech is regarded by Arsene Wenger as a huge coup following a series of attempts to land a player he first targeted in the summer of 2013.
Arsenal moved for the Czech international when he was still the undisputed Chelsea No1 but Jose Mourinho, starting his second spell at Stamford Bridge, immediately rebuffed his rival manager’s enquiries and went a step further by blocking Demba Ba’s loan move to Emirates Stadium on the final day of that summer’s transfer window.
Twelve months later, Wenger moved for Cech again as Thibaut Courtois prepared to unseat Cech as the first-choice Chelsea goalkeeper. The Arsenal manager had made a new goalkeeper signing a priority following a mixed campaign by Wojciech Szczesny.
However, Mourinho wanted two top-class ‘keepers and Cech was prepared to battle his younger rival for a regular starting place. Arsenal signed David Ospina from Nice instead.
In the Janaury 2015 window, Arsenal were given a glimmer of encouragement from Cech’s camp that a deal could be possible after he had been demoted to the Stamford Bridge fringes following an impressive start by new No1 Courtois. Significantly, the Gunners were told that Cech’s family was settled in London and he was keen to stay in the capital.
By this point, Szczesny had lost his place to Ospina and Wenger was not convinced that either of his two keepers had the class and consistency to be a regular for a title-winning team.
Cech was growing frustrated by his new status but was told he was needed for Chelsea’s trophy push and he would have to wait until the summer for a move.
Arsenal had seen little sign of a drop in the goalkeeper’s standards and identified him as a priority target in the final weeks of last season.
With the noises from Cech’s camp increasingly positive to a rare transfer between the two rival clubs, Mourinho made little attempt to hide his disapproval at the proposed move.
Crucially, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich intervened and gave Cech the green light to move to a club of his choice out of respect for the keeper’s considerable achievements during his 11 years at Stamford Bridge, in which he has won every major honour.
Arsenal opened talks with Chelsea last month over a deal and, as revealed by Football Insider, were given permission to discuss terms with the player. They were finally within sight of signing Cech at the fourth attempt.
The final hurdles were cleared last week when Cech formally told Chelsea he wanted to join Arsenal and the west London club gave the go-ahead for their rivals to sign the player.