Arsenal have started what could become a drawn-out and very public process to sign Leeds United star Raphinha.
On Tuesday, the Gunners saw an opening bid for the 25-year-old rejected out of hand by Elland Road bosses, despite being insistent they wouldn’t blink first in negotiations. Raphinha has only been in English football for two seasons, but such has been his impact since signing from Rennes, he has the toast of Europe chasing his signature.
Spurs have reportedly informed Whites chiefs that they intend to make a bid for the player, while Chelsea’s new owner Todd Boehly – who has taken on transfer responsibilities – sees him as the kind of splash to get his stewardship off to the perfect start.
However, for all of the interest from these shores, Raphinha’s preference is said to be a move to the Camp Nou and Barcelona, having already agreed personal terms with the Blaugrana. That’s the dream, but how Barca would be able to contend with three Premier League clubs in the midst of their own financial woes remains to be seen.
But while the destination of his next club remains up in the air, there is a growing acceptance that he will at some point seal an exit during the summer window. Such is the strength of feeling, Leeds are already in the market for the player that will ultimately replace him in Jesse Marsch’s starting XI for next season.
French news outlet Foot Mercato claim PSV forward Cody Gakpo is the name in the frame for that role, having shone in the Eredivisie last term. Still just 23, there are hopes that Gakpo can become a centrepiece for the Netherlands having registered 21 goals and 15 assists in all competitions.
Coincidentally, the Dutchman has already drawn interest from Arsenal and he could yet come back into their focus if they are unsuccessful in the Raphinha stakes. But with Gunners boss Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu plotting another summer rebuild, the PSV man represents a significantly less expensive option.
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The report claims that Gakpo could cost suitors as little as €30m (£25m), that’s in comparison to the £65m Leeds are holding out for their own prized asset. Fortunately for the Gunners, it’s unlikely that Gakpo would be on the move before Raphinha, with the Brazilian’s move a domino that would need to fall prior.
Arsenal have already signed two players this summer with Marquinhos and Fabio Vieira arriving from Sao Paulo and FC Porto respectively, but there are still a number of positions the Emirates brain trust would like to upgrade.
And saving such a massive chunk of their summer budget on a player which could yet prove to be a better investment, smacks of a more shrewd business move in a summer where the Gunners will need plenty, if they are to close the gap on the top four.