English Premiership

Arsenal poach Barcelona youth

2011-02-23 19:01
Jon Toral (File)

Barcelona - Arsenal has poached another player from Barcelona's lauded youth academy.

Barcelona confirmed Wednesday that 16-year-old Jon Toral is set to follow in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas and join the Gunners from next season.

Spanish reports said the north London club paid €350 000 for Toral, who was free to sign with any professional team.

Toral came through the Spanish champion's La Masia ranks like new teammate Fabregas and fellow prospect Fran Merida, who were both signed by Arsenal as teenagers. World Cup champion Fabregas is captain at Arsenal and Merida is now with Atletico Madrid.

Arsenal also signed 18-year-old Ignasi Miquel from Barcelona in 2008, with the defender playing in Sunday's 1-1 FA Cup draw at Leyton Orient.

The lanky Toral, who is listed as a midfielder in Barcelona's youth team, reportedly has roots in Britain, where his mother is from.

Arsenal isn't the only English club to raid La Masia after Manchester United signed Gerard Pique in 2003. But the Spain defender has since returned to Barcelona where he has helped the two-time defending Spanish champion to eight trophies in the last two-plus seasons.

Barcelona has been clear that it wishes to sign Fabregas back from Arsenal, with the club even making an official bid for the player last summer.

In a further twist, Toral's agent who engineered the move is Pere Guardiola - brother of current Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

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