Arsenal have agreed a fee of £13.7 million (20 million euros) with Juventus for the sale of French midfielder Patrick Vieira, the English Premiership club said on Thursday.
The 29-year-old, who has been at Highbury since 1996, will join the Italian club on a five-year deal if he agrees personal terms.
“When you spend nine years at the club, like I did, it is a difficult decision to leave,” club skipper Vieira said.
“But in the end you have to make a choice for your future. It was a very difficult decision, but I am happy with it.
“I made the decision to leave because I felt it was time for me to have a new challenge. But that does not mean I was unhappy or that I was having a problem at Arsenal.
“It was just that I had the feeling I needed to grow and meet a new challenge, and I feel Juventus was the best challenge for me.”
A statement on the club’s official website www.arsenal.com read: “Arsenal Football Club can confirm that terms have been agreed for the transfer of Patrick Vieira to Juventus for a total fee of 20 million euros.”
“At this stage, Patrick is now finalising his personal terms and conditions with Juventus.”
Vieira, whose Arsenal contract had been due to expire in 2007, turned down a move to Real Madrid last year.
Vieira won the Premiership with the Gunners on three occasions – 1998, 2002 and 2004 – but did not enjoy success in the Champions League.
The Frenchman, who will have a medical at his new club on Friday and could be unveiled in the afternoon, had joined Arsenal from AC Milan.
A move back to Serie A, however, was thought to be unlikely after he was racially abused in a match against Lazio.
He had played a major role in coach Arsene Wenger’s success at Highbury.
“I share the sadness with our supporters that Patrick has left us, but on the other hand I would say to them trust us and support us,” Wenger said.
We’ll be strong next season and we need you behind us like you have always been. We will not disappoint you.
“Patrick was a great player for us, one of the greatest in the club’s history and I feel I had a special relationship with him because I made him come here. I think his impact, not only at Arsenal but in English football overall was just tremendous.
“The sad thing is that he leaves us, but the good thing is that he leaves us on a high. His last kick for the club was symbolic as it won us the FA Cup.
“Patrick will always be special for Arsenal Football Club, always in our hearts and our minds. All I can do is thank him for all he gave to the club and wish him well in his career.”
Juventus officials revealed Arsenal will receive only half of the fee for Vieira initially, with two further payments over the next two years.
A statement on official website www.juventus.it read: “Juventus FC announces it has reached an agreement with Arsenal for the acquisition Patrick Vieira for a fee of 20million euros to be paid in three instalments.
“Ten million euros (6.9million pounds) to be paid immediately after the contract stipulation.
“Five million euros (3.4million pounds) on July 14 2006, and another five million (3.4million) on July 14 2007.
“Juventus FC have agreed a five-year contract with Vieira.”