Zarate keen to avoid Qatar return

Birmingham City's loan signing hopes to make things more permanent.

    Mauro Zarate keen to stay as a blue [GALLO/GETTY]

    Argentinian striker Mauro Zarate is hoping to turn his loan deal with Birmingham into a full-time move.

    The Argentine striker joined the Premier League club from Qatar's Al-Sadd in January and has scored three goals in his past two games.

    Al-Sadd paid Argentina's Velez Sarsfield more than $19.8 million for him last year and is likely to demand a big fee.

    "There is a good chance for me to come back here on loan, but I will not know until June,'' Zarate said.

    "I want to stay in this country. Birmingham was the first team in Europe who wanted to sign me when I wanted to leave Qatar and Al-Sadd, so they are still my first choice for the future.

    "I always wanted to come to England. I love the atmosphere and the football. It was quite hard to live in Qatar, but I am enjoying my time here. My target is to stay in England. I don't want to go back to Qatar.''

    Birmingham manager Alex McLeish, whose team goes to Wigan on Saturday as it tries to move further away from the relegation zone, hopes to clarify Zarate's status before the end of the season.

    "We have to try and be positive about where he is going to be next season,'' McLeish said.

    "We won't leave it to the very last minute. We certainly realize there are other big fish out there interested in him.''

    King ends season early

    Meanwhile, Tottenham captain Ledley King will miss the last six games of the season to rest his troublesome knee.

    King has only played 10 games for Spurs this season.

    "My knee is actually feeling good at the moment and there is no inflammation, but we have to look at the bigger picture and accept that this is an ideal point in time to recover further, get best advice and make sure that I come back fitter,'' King said.

    "They are six games I could well have taken part in, but we all believe this is worth doing for the longer term benefit.''

    King underwent knee surgery in June 2007. He also missed 32 of Tottenham's 59 games last season because of various foot and knee injuries.

    Almunia extends Arsenal deal

    Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia has signed long-term contract extension with Arsenal.

    The 30-year-old Spaniard joined the club in 2004, but only ousted Jens Lehmann as the club's first-choice goalkeeper this season.

    Arsenal has not revealed the length of Almunia's contract.

    "I have extended my contract and I hope to be here for a long, long time,'' Almunia says.

    "I talked to my wife and I said I did not want to go back to Spain to play. Hopefully, I can finish my career here.

    "Football can change your life in one second. At the start of the season, I was not playing. But football changed my life again and now I am one of the happiest men around.''

    SOURCE: Agencies


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