Saturday 24 March 2018

Arsenal try to hijack Liverpool's signing of Chile and Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez

Arsene Wenger makes striker his top transfer target of the summer and throws a spanner in works of Luis Suarez's move to Barcelona

Chile's Alexis Sanchez
Chile's Alexis Sanchez

Jeremy Wilson

Arsenal are attempting to derail Liverpool’s potential signing of Alexis Sánchez after Arsène Wenger made the Chile and Barcelona striker his priority transfer target of the summer.

An initial bid of around £22million is understood to have been made but Arsenal have the funds to go higher and are actively trying to prevent Sánchez being used in a makeweight for Luis Suárez’s proposed move from Liverpool to Barcelona.

Although it might suit both Liverpool and Barcelona for Sánchez to be part of the Suárez deal, Arsenal know that the final decision is ultimately likely to rest with the player. Despite Liverpool’s Premier League title push, Arsenal will hope that their consistent participation in the Champions League and their superior financial strength will help persuade Sánchez that they represent a better long-term option.

They will also stress the opportunity to play alongside some of the most creative players in the Premier League, including Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott.

Liverpool opened talks on Wednesday with Barcelona about the potential transfer of Suárez and will reiterate their strong interest in Sánchez. Suárez is valued by Liverpool at around £70 million despite his ineligibility until the end of October, subject to an appeal for his bite on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup.

It has become increasingly apparent, however, that Suárez wants to move to Barcelona. He made a belated apology for biting Chiellini, apparently at Barcelona’s request, with Andoni Zubizarreta, the sporting director, then making a point of praising his “humility”. Barcelona have already indicated that Sánchez is likely to leave this summer, but the key question now appears to be whether he would willingly accept moving to Liverpool.

The sense in Spain is that his initial preference would be Arsenal, a scenario that would leave Liverpool needing to decide whether they would be willing to sell Suárez for a straight cash fee. They would also then be well aware of the indirect impact of helping Arsenal to sign Sánchez.

Relations between Arsenal and Liverpool became strained last summer when Arsenal made a rejected £40 million plus £1 bid for Suárez. Wenger is determined to add an established world-class striker this summer and, despite ongoing interest in Mario Balotelli, Karim Benzema and Álvaro Morata, has identified Sánchez as his main target.

Sánchez’s versatility will have especially attracted Wenger. He can play in a variety of positions across the forward line, scoring 21 goals from the right for Barcelona last season. At 25, he should also be in the peak years of his career and was excellent during the World Cup as a central striker for Chile.

That would give Wenger the option of playing him either alongside Olivier Giroud or as the main central striker in what would be a more fluid attacking formation.

On Sánchez, Zubizarreta confirmed Barcelona have already received several bids. “Regarding the future of Alexis Sánchez, there have been offers for the player,” he said. “But I do not know how it will all end – we are looking for a solution which will be best for everyone.”

Wenger has a £100million transfer budget this summer, but also wants to sign a right-back, a holding midfielder and another goalkeeper. Should Thomas Vermaelen leave, he would also need further cover at centre-back.

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