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Maxi Romero: How Man Utd forced Wenger to bring forward Arsenal deal THIS WEEK

With their bags packed, an Arsenal delegation are due to touch down in Buenos Aries on Wednesday to finalise a deal for Argie superkid Maxi Romero - at the second time of asking.

Arsenal made an attempt for the 16 year-old striker in January, only for their €3 million offer to be rejected by Velez Sarsfield.

The Gunners weren't expected to return to the negotiating table until June. However, it's emerged that after that initial Arsenal bid, Manchester United made their interest known to Velez's board - and that's kicked Gunners manager Arsene Wenger into action.

Roly Zarate, Romero's agent and older brother of Mauro, let the cat out of the bag last week on local radio, confirming Arsenal representatives would arrive "on April 9" to wrap up negotiations.

Velez's board have accepted an offer of €6 million from the Londoners for 80 per cent of Romero's contract. The price for the remaining 20 per cent will be set when Romero is eligible formally to play for the Gunners in two years' time.

With everything appearing to be settled verbally, Wenger is anxious to get an agreement signed and sealed, wary of United's sudden enquiries.

For his part, Maxi speaks like the deal has been done.

"I know nothing, it's handled by my dad, my family, Roly and Velez. Of the transfer, I know nothing, Roly and my old man are in the know," he told Velez Radio over the weekend.

"I want to stay in Velez. I decided this from the beginning (of negotiations). I told Roly I did not want to leave Velez. He told me he was going to fix it. Luckily he arranged for me to stay two years in Velez. He talked to my dad and told him that there is a clause for two years."

Romero only signed his first pro deal in January - and this was after stunning his senior teammates with an amazing performance in a friendly that same month.

In the lead up to Velez's big game against Boca Juniors, Velez coach Miguel Angel Russo organised a midweek friendly against All Boys. Russo wasn't messing around, selecting a virtual first-choice XI for the bounce game - with one glaring difference.

In attack, alongside the experienced Mariano Pavone, the 32 year-old former Real Betis striker, was a kid - Maximiliano Romero - just days after celebrating his 16th birthday.

By the end of that 90 minutes, Argentine football was buzzing. Romero struck twice, with Velez winning 4-1, and his name appeared on the backpages of all the big sports dailies. Pundits were aware of Romero, he'd finished last year the country's top scorer in all amateur competition, and had also scored in his reserve-team debut.

But here he was, playing alongside Velez's most established players, and not looking out of place.

"Velez has meant so much in my life. Since 2009, I've played here, beginning with the 98 cadets. Velez is a great club and is the best I could've joined," says Romero.

Since that stunning friendly appearance, Romero has been included in Russo's matchday squads, though is yet to make a first team debut.

"I think the decision to play me or not is all down to the coach and must be respected. All I can do is put my heart into everything I do on the training pitch and hope the coach has enough confidence in me to play me."

In a matter of months, Romero has jumped eight levels of football to now be part of Velez's first team, "it was unexpected jump. Something unexpected", but he believes such an experience will prepare him for his eventual move to England.

"I've gone from the eighth division to the first. Now I have to keep working towards being ready for England. I have two years to do so.

"Going there will be a wonderful experience. I want to do it! But first, I want to make my debut with Velez."

Romero admits he wants to keep his family close and can't imagine living in London on own.

"It's most likely I'll go with my family, but I do not want to go immediately. I've always said my family is with me in everything and in this I want them close, because I'm too young to go to another country to live alone. I do not know anything about life there. I cannot speak English, though I'm learning now."

So, as Maxi suggests, the move is settled. The contracts just need to be signed and he will become an Arsenal player this week.

And he's already planning for life beyond the Gunners - and with a current West Ham United striker.

"No matter what happens, I'll always want to return to Velez. As Mauro (Zárate) said to me at one time, we could make a great partnership. He and I could play together for Velez."

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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