Arsenal target ‘out of Barcelona’s reach’ as Arteta eyes ideal alternative worth half Rice’s value
Arsenal have been handed a boost in their pursuit of Real Sociedad midfielder Martin Zubimendi, according to reports in Spain.
The 24-year-old has played 39 times across all competitions this term, scoring once and assisting three goals, while picking up 13 yellow cards.
He made his only appearance for the Spanish national team in July 2021 after breaking onto the scene at club level.
Zubimendi was handed plenty of game time towards the end of the 2020-21 campaign and has since been a mainstay in Sociedad’s midfield, starring in the No. 6 role.
His fine form for the La Liga outfit has caught the attention of Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.
The Spanish manager is eager to bolster his midfield in the summer transfer window and has reportedly made West Ham captain Declan Rice his top priority.
A report in January said Arteta tried to bring Zubimendi to the Emirates during the winter window, but the player did not want to leave Sociedad mid-season.
The Gunners will definitely sign at least one midfielder this summer, and even if that player turns out to be Rice, it would not be surprising to see another one join.
Rice can operate effectively as a No. 6, but is also very good in a box-to-box role, while Zubimendi is someone who excels playing in front of the defence and would be a cheaper alternative to Moises Caicedo – who Arsenal failed to sign from Brighton in January after having a £70million bid rejected.
Arteta’s side is not the only club in for the Spanish playmaker, with Barcelona also believed to be keen.
The La Liga leaders will need to sell before they can buy this summer, however.
Former Leeds United winger Raphinha is one player Xavi Hernandez is reportedly open to selling, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle United all linked with the Brazilian – who could cost up to £80m.
Barcelona are also eyeing up a move for club legend Lionel Messi, who would not be cheap despite being available on a free transfer following the expiry of his Paris Saint-Germain contract.
The sale of Raphinha would probably not be enough for the Blaugrana to bring in Messi and Zubimendi – with Xavi desperately looking for a new deep-lying midfielder.
Arsenal have lost plenty of transfer battles with Barcelona, but could have the edge over their old foes in the race to land Zubimendi.
According to Gerard Romero, the 24-year-old Spaniard is ‘out of Barca’s reach’.
He said (via Barca Times): “A new pivot is a priority for Baraa in summer, given Busquets’ possible departure. [Sofyan] Amrabat is the first and most affordable option.
“Xavi loves Zubimendi, but his signing is out of the club’s reach.”
A recent report from Spanish outlet AS stated that Zubimendi is ‘very close’ to accepting a deal to join Arsenal.
The report – which is centered around Barca’s interest in Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat – states that Zubimendi is ‘ruled out’ as a target for the Catalan club as he is ‘very close to accepting an offer to play next season’ at The Emirates.
It is believed that Zubimendi has a €60m (£52.5m) release clause – which is a very decent fee in today’s market, especially when you consider that West Ham want over £100m for Rice.
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