Date: 5th January 2010 at 9:29am
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Spanish newspaper AS reports this morning that Fran Merida has signed a 5 year deal with Atletico Madrid to return to Spain at the end of this season.

The 19 year old midfielder was offered, and had apparently verbally agreed a new contract with Arsenal back in September but this was never signed. Commenting at the time Wenger said “Some clubs are doing work behind our back to destabilise him. We cannot stop them but it is a fact.”

Merida had joined Arsenal in 2005 in controversial circumstances from Barcelona’s youth team and 2 years later was ordered by Spanish courts to pay Barca around £2m for breaching personal pre-contract terms, a fee believed to have been paid by Arsenal.

He opened his senior goal scoring account with a tremendous strike in the Carling Cup win over Liverpool at the Emirates in October. After the game he was delighted to have scored and expressed his desire to secure a new contract.

“At the moment I am talking to the Club so I don’t know what is going to happen,” he said at the time.

“I am really happy here so hopefully everything is going to be OK. We are going to sit down and talk about [a new contract].”

If the reports are true then Merida will leave on a free transfer which, though sad for a player with obvious talent, is understandable given those like Ramsey who are ahead of him. Merida’s agent Joseba Diaz has said that Fran has ‘a disease for Atletico’ and that ‘little can be done about it’

With a surfeit of young talent that the club has developed and acquired all impatient to get into a first team which, with players like Cesc, Denilson, Song and Diaby, is still quite young it is inevitable that some players, as with Bentley and Sidwell previously, will not want to wait for their first team chance to come. It appears that Merida, who will be 20 before the season ends, doesn’t see an early route into the Arsenal team.



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