The idea of Granit Xhaka leaving Arsenal to join Roma is “back in fashion”, despite his recent contract extension and current injury, according to reports in Italy.
Xhaka found himself at the centre of a transfer saga in the summer when Roma made him their top target under the direction of their new manager, Jose Mourinho. The ex-Tottenham boss was fond of the midfielder from his time as his rival in the Premier League.
But Arsenal won the battle as they held firm with their asking price, which Roma refused to meet. The Gunners eventually managed to extend Xhaka’s contract to send a clear signal.
Mourinho was therefore left disappointed and it was too late for him to find an alternative. He began his new job in Rome with the same midfield options that had been available to his predecessor, Paulo Fonseca.
There has been a clear sense ever since, though, that Mourinho will instruct his new club to get back in the market for a midfielder in January. Their recent poor form has only increased those rumours.
One idea they have is to rival Arsenal for the signature of one of their own midfield targets, Denis Zakaria. Out of contract with Borussia Monchengladbach at the end of the season, he is believed to be Roma’s top target.
But there is plenty of competition for Zakaria – including from Arsenal themselves – so the Serie A side are considering alternatives. In doing so, they have turned back towards Xhaka.
According to Corriere Dello Sport, Roma are pressing for Xhaka again if they cannot capture his Swiss compatriot Zakaria.
A deal would still likely be difficult. Arsenal are now in a stronger position after extending Xhaka’s contract. Furthermore, they have concerns about being deprived of some of their other midfielders.
For example, Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny will be on African Cup of Nations duty in January. The latter looks likely to leave the club in 2022 anyway due to his contract expiring.
Xhaka will therefore be an important player for Arsenal again once he returns from the ligament injury that is currently keeping him out of action.
But they must pay attention again if Roma are ready to make a fresh attempt to sign the target they missed out on a few months back.
Xhaka felt ‘lucky’ to renew with Arsenal
In September, after the closure of the summer transfer market, Xhaka revealed how the saga affected him.
Despite previously hinting he would have been happy to work with Mourinho, he claimed the new deal Arsenal gave him provided fresh inspiration.
“I returned to the club from my holidays in excellent shape,” he said.
“The extension of the contract gave me another push. I consider myself lucky with it – besides, I’m healthy, which is the most important thing in the end.”
“The market is closed and today I have fun, because we bought so many players but everyone asks me about the midfielder,” he said.
“Everyone knows we were after Xhaka. He wanted to come to Roma, but Arsenal didn’t release him.
“It’s my regret for this transfer market.”
They may now be trying to rectify it, but it isn’t their priority and won’t be easy regardless.
Xhaka played five times for Arsenal this season before his injury. Across his entire spell with the club, he has made 225 appearances, scoring 13 goals and adding 20 assists.