Friday 14 December 2018

Barcelona to rival Arsenal for Thomas Lemar next year

Monaco's Thomas Lemar is wanted by a number of clubs
Monaco's Thomas Lemar is wanted by a number of clubs

Jeremy Wilson

Barcelona are preparing to rival Arsenal next year for the signing of Monaco and France midfielder Thomas Lemar.

Arsenal almost signed Lemar on deadline day of the August transfer window but what would easily have been a club record £90 million bid was ultimately unsuccessful, prompting Manchester City’s own £60m offer for Alexis Sanchez to be rejected.

Lemar remains Arsenal’s priority target and, while Liverpool are also keen, it would surely prove difficult for Lemar to resist if Barcelona do follow up their interest with a bid.

Monaco’s vice-president Vadim Vasilyev admitted Arsenal were “really close” to getting Lemar but their bid only reached £90m once there was a firm deadline day offer for Sanchez - and the Chile striker could now leave for nothing next year.

Sanchez has shown little indication that he is ready to extend a contract at Arsenal that expires next year but there remains more hope over Mesut Ozil. He has so far refused all offers but talks are expected to continue.

Arsenal’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis said that the club had decided to keep both players to give themselves the best short-term chances of success, even though there could be a significant financial cost next year.

“The decisions on Alexis and Mesut Ozil are certainly not decisions that fit the narrative that we put money first,” said Gazidis. “We have taken that approach to give the club the best possible chance to compete for trophies this season. It's quite possible that, in retrospect, people may say that some of the decisions we have made his summer prove to be wrong or foolhardy.

“We need to be humble, continue to learn and continue to evolve our thinking and our approach but it's also absolutely clear that the decisions we've made don't fit the narrative from some that we are financially motivated.

“Strong inflation again in the transfer market has had a correlating effect on players’ salary demands. Many clubs are facing challenges in their contract renewal discussions. That's a challenge that we have to and we will rise to.”

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