Premier League • England

Paths destined to cross as divisive Arsenal figure wanders towards touted transfer union with ‘first love’

Newcastle target Bernd Leno

Jose Mourinho has not forgotten that Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka was supposed to be the first building block of his new Roma project, so will test the Gunners’ resolve again, reports in Italy claim.

Xhaka was Mourinho’s top target after taking the Roma job in the summer. However, Arsenal set an asking price that the Italians refused to meet. After holding firm, the north London side then extended the midfielder’s contract.

Some questioned the decision due to Xhaka’s discipline issues and inconsistencies. But the Switzerland international has retained a regular role since.

What has followed from his 15 appearances so far this season, though, has only raised those concerns further. Xhaka has picked up five yellow cards and one red card in 2021-22.

Recently, he also refused to take the captain’s armband – which he was stripped of back in 2019 – midway through a match. There has been a building feeling that Arsenal may reverse their summer decision.

According to Calciomercato, Xhaka was Mourinho’s “first love” in terms of Roma targets. He has not forgotten him, so is preparing to make a new attempt to prise him away from the Emirates Stadium in the summer.

Arsenal have Xhaka under contract until 2024, but could be making their own plans to evolve in midfield. Indeed, they wanted to make a signing in the position in January, but were unable to do so.

Granit Xhaka Arsenal

Several targets have since been linked, which may indicate a future without Xhaka. Mourinho, a former rival to Arsenal with both Chelsea and Tottenham, will be hoping to take advantage.

Calciomercato seem more confident of the outcome wanted in Italy. But they warn that patience will be required before any deal can be done for the long-awaited union.

Xhaka to move in opposite direction to teammate

However, one man who may not be making the move from Arsenal to Roma is Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

The versatile 24-year-old had long sought a move away from Arsenal in order to generate regular gametime. He had to wait until the winter window before finally leaving on loan to Roma.

Roma to continue push for Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka

Roma to continue push for Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka

Granit Xhaka is wanted by Jose Mourinho and Roma with Arsenal ready for more approaches

But since arriving in the Italian capital, things have not gone entirely to plan.

Maitland-Niles has featured in each Serie A match for Roma since joining on January 8. But after starting his Roma career with two successive 90 minute displays, he has since seen his time on the pitch curtailed.

He has been hooked before the hour mark on two occasions and was handed a short 14-minute cameo off the bench in another clash.

According to Calciomercato, that stems from Maitland-Niles struggling to catch the eye.

As such, the report states his performances have been ‘so disappointing’ that Roma boss Mourinho has ‘already begun’ searching for replacements for his position in the squad ahead of the summer window. Barcelona’s Sergino Dest is one option.

That means it’s highly unlikely the Serie A side will trigger the option to turn Maitland-Niles’ loan deal permanent. The outlet state that option is between the £8m-£12m mark.

Arsenal will receive nothing unless he turns his performances around over the coming months. If he were to return to north London he would have just one year left on his Arsenal deal.

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