Arsenal have identified a £35million replacement for the on-loan Dani Ceballos once he returns to Real Madrid at the end of the season and have even tabled a contract offer to the player, according to reports.
Mikel Arteta is said to be an admirer of Espanyol’s Marc Roca, who is slated as likely to be sold this summer.
Ball-winning defensive midfielder Roca has made 24 La Liga appearances this season, scoring two goals and providing a single assist.
But the 23-year-old is only under contract until 2022 and with La Liga relegation likely if the campaign resumes and the club expected to feel the financial hit of the coronavirus crisis regardless of whether or not it is concluded, Roca is set to be sold so Espanyol can extract maximum value for the midfielder.
According to Sport, Arsenal have been admirers of the player for almost a year and looked at Roca before bringing in Ceballos.
But with the Spaniard expected to return to Real, Roca has been identified as Arteta’s first option as a permanent addition to replace him in the middle.
Yet while the north London club are said to have made an offer to the player, negotiations between the two clubs have not yet been held and will not take place until once the sporting world returns to normality after the coronavirus pandemic.
Bayern Munich were said to have been put off signing Roca last summer, with Espanyol having also rebuffed Inter Milan, due to the player’s £35m (€40m) release clause.
But Arsenal are waiting until the season ends before submitting a bid because they believe the player’s price could drop in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19.
With the deadly virus set to affect the revenues of clubs across Europe, teams may be forced to accept lesser fees for players, with Roca included in that.
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Arsenal are said to be determined to land the Catalonian Spain under-21 International, however.
Valencia’s Carlos Soler is another La Liga midfielder reportedly on Arteta’s radar.
Also 23, the Spaniard has been deployed more as a wide player this season and is more of an attack-minded alternative to Roca.
Valencia need to raise at least £35m in player sales before the end of June to balance their books and could therefore be forced into the sale of their academy graduate, who has made over 100 first-team appearances.
He is under contract until 2023, though, having signed a new deal last December which includes a £132m (€150m) release clause.
Gunners hero Paul Merson meanwhile thinks West Ham’s Declan Rice, who could fetch a fee of up to £80m, is the ideal defensive-minded option to control Arsenal’s midfield.
“Chelsea have been linked with him, but I don’t know why Arsenal aren’t looking at Declan Rice,” he told Sky Sports.
“Arsenal are crying out for a holding midfield player. They don’t need a midfielder who’s going to be on the edge of the opposition box, they need a disciplined defensive midfielder, who is going to sit in front of the back four and organise the side; one who, when he gets the ball, gives it simple with 10-yard passes.
“When you look back at the likes of Roy Keane later in his career and Claude Makelele, they were the best because they never got involved. They just did the simple things.
“It’s such a hard job and that’s why I can’t believe Arsenal aren’t going in for a player like Rice,” he added.
“A player like Rice can allow the attacking players to flourish and it gives the central defenders the chance to be better than what they are.
“I don’t care who you are in football, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and even a Virgil van Dijk, if you’ve got people running at you left, right and centre every minute, they are going to go past you on occasions.
“That’s where good protection in front of the back four comes into it and every team needs it. There are not too many world-class centre-backs in the world so that makes the defensive midfield position all the more important.
“For me, a good holding midfielder is priceless. Arsenal haven’t really had a disciplined defensive midfielder since Gilberto Silva.
“Everyone talks about the club never really replacing Patrick Vieira, and of course, but they never replaced Gilberto either.
“There are players in the current team that are meant to do that job but they don’t have the discipline to do it, and that needs addressing.”
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