Marouane Fellaini, Joe Hart and Pablo ZabaletaArsenal has long talked about flexing its muscles in this summer’s transfer market. The Gunners have now backed those words with action.

On Wednesday, Arsenal made a transfer bid for Marouane Fellaini. The £22 million ($34.2 million) offer leaves the Belgian midfielder free to negotiate personal terms with Arsenal, and Everton is powerless to stop him, according to

“The Gunners have activated the release clause in the Everton midfielder’s contract and are confident of wrapping up a deal for the 25-year-old in the coming weeks,” the report says.

“Goal understands that Arsenal made the club-record bid on Wednesday, the same day that Roberto Martinez was appointed the new Everton manager.”

Fellaini has been one of the Premier League’s standout performers in recent seasons. The 25-year-old combines size, strength, speed, skill and versatility to influence games from the midfield. He joined Everton from Belgium’s Standard Liege in 2008 for a club-record £15 million ($22.8 million). His value has steadily increased over the last five seasons, and so has the level of interest from other clubs.

Fellaini’s contract expires in 2016, but there’s little chance he will stay at Goodison Park until then. In September, he not only went public about his desire to compete in the UEFA Champions League, but also revealed that his contract contained a release clause. Many tipped him to switch clubs during the January transfer window, but the expected bids did not materialize.

The Gunners are reportedly ready to spend as much as £70 million ($109 million) on new players this summer. Fellaini is among Arsenal’s transfer targets, which are thought to include a goalkeeper, central defender and at least one striker.

A host of other teams remain interested in Fellaini’s services. Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City were believed to be leading the race to his signature, but Arsenal appears to have made the first concrete move. It would come as no surprise if the trio of clubs — the top three finishers in the 2012-13 Premier League — also lodge bids which trigger the release clause. Fellaini would then have his choice of clubs from which to choose, and he would most likely base his decision on sporting and financial factors.

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