Premier League • England

Arsenal confirm academy graduate will leave Emirates after 19-year stay; Edu ‘in negotiations’ over star’s new contract

Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Emile Smith Rowe of Arsenal

Arsenal have revealed Ainsley Maitland-Niles will leave the club on a free transfer as his contract will not be renewed, while sporting director Edu is discussions over a forward’s new contract to prevent a transfer to Italy.

Arsenal are hoping to make Declan Rice their first summer signing. They have begun the bidding by sending West Ham an £80million offer, though this has been rejected. The two clubs remain in talks, with reports suggesting Arsenal will return with an improved bid worth £100m.

David Ornstein of The Athletic has revealed Manchester City are ‘actively exploring’ a move of their own for the midfielder. But as things stand, it appears Arsenal are the frontrunners to complete a deal with West Ham.

Arsenal’s second summer arrival could surprisingly be Chelsea forward Kai Havertz. As per Fabrizio Romano, Havertz has given Arsenal the green light to sign him as long as they can reach an agreement with Chelsea.

The Blues have told Arsenal to put up £75m for the German, although this is more than what Mikel Arteta’s side are willing to pay. The two teams remain in talks as they look to find a solution.

Amid all the transfer rumours, Arsenal have announced the players that will be departing once their contracts expire at the end of the month.

READ MORE: Arteta generates Arsenal interest in raid on Barcelona for gifted midfielder fulfilling Xavi demand

Maitland-Niles is the biggest name on the list. He has been on Arsenal’s books for 19 years, having come through their academy and gone on to make 132 appearances in their first team.

But the midfielder, who can also play as a right-back, has fallen down the pecking order in recent years. As such, he has had loan spells with West Brom, Roma and Southampton since the start of 2021.

Arsenal man discusses ‘very emotional journey’

Reacting to his departure from the Emirates, Maitland-Niles said: “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling to be honest, it’s been a very emotional journey. Having supported the club growing up and coming through the ranks, I can only be happy with what I’ve achieved since I’ve been here.

“I’ve seen a lot of players come and go and played with a lot of fantastic players throughout my time here. Unfortunately, it has to come to an end, but I’ve been happy every single moment I’ve been here to play and work for this club.

“The trophy wins would probably be the best moments for me, obviously some of the domestic seasons weren’t so great but at least I got to win some trophies with the club that I love. The FA Cup final was a fantastic day that will always stick in my mind, and I was happy to be a part of the team that won it.”

Arsenal’s update also revealed that Edu is in ‘negotiations’ with Reiss Nelson’s camp over a new contract for the winger. His current terms expire at the end of June, which has resulted in interest from Italian side Milan.

But various sources have reported that Nelson wants to remain with Arsenal and it seems it will not be long before his new deal becomes official.

Arsenal’s decision to let Maitland-Niles go but keep Nelson makes sense. The former is now 25 and not close to getting into Arteta’s starting eleven, so he would have simply wasted space on the wage bill.

At 23, Nelson still has some more time to develop. The attacker was not a regular starter last term, although he did chip in with a crucial winner against Southampton in March, which may have convinced Arteta to retain his services.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have been told they’re getting the ‘closest thing’ to an iconic former Premier League star if they win the race for a big-money target.