Monday 18 December 2017

Gunners target Napoli defender after £30m capture of Xhaka

Arsenal target Koulibaly is also wanted by Chelsea and Manchester United: REUTERS
Arsenal target Koulibaly is also wanted by Chelsea and Manchester United: REUTERS

Jeremy Wilson

Arsenal are interested in the Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly after Arsene Wenger made a centre-back and a striker his transfer priorities following the £30million signing of midfielder Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Koulibaly, a 24-year-old Senegal international, is also among Chelsea and Manchester United's potential targets but Arsenal intend to strengthen at centre-back following mixed performances last season from Per Mertesacker and Gabriel.

Mertesacker has only one more year remaining on his contract while Arsenal will be conscious that Laurent Koscielny, who is the clear first-choice central defender, is now also into his 30s.

The need for a new striker has been compounded by Danny Welbeck's knee injury and Arsenal's leading target is still Juventus forward Alvaro Morata. The 23-year-old had a £23m buy-back clause inserted in his contract when he left Real Madrid for Juventus and so is expected to rejoin Madrid before then being made available. Arsenal are also following Vincent Janssen at AZ Alkmaar but Wenger has been interested in Morata for several years and, although he has never scored 15 club goals in a season, believes that he would be ideally suited to Arsenal. Koulibaly would cost around £20m and, like Xhaka, any deal for Morata would be likely to exceed £30m with add-ons.


Arsenal are also tracking several young British players, including Bolton defender Rob Holding, Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney and Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon. There will almost certainly also be departures this summer, with Kieran Gibbs expected to leave and Theo Walcott, David Ospina and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain likely to seek assurances about their probable involvement next season.

Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez will also hold contract talks. The arrival of Xhaka, though, is an indicator that Wenger is preparing to reach deeply into a transfer fund this summer of around £75m ahead of what is the final year of his contract.

Elsewhere, Rafa Benitez was unveiled for the second time as the manager of Newcastle and admitted he believes he can lead the club to promotion and then to a period of winning trophies.

The 56-year-old agreed a three-year contract and revealed he had been given assurances he will not have to sell any of the squad who were relegated to the Championship.

Benitez has also been handed the title of manager and given full control of football matters, a radical break in the structure that helped contribute to the club's relegation. He spoke about the impact of the supporters, who had vociferously called for him to stay, and how his family had told him to take the position at St James' Park.

"I am here because I am convinced we can go up next season, stay there for a long time and even win trophies," he said. "The first reason for me to stay was the fans, the stature of the club and the future. I have seen all these things together. I came here because of that and I could see these things every day, especially the last day of the season.

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