Pablo Mari one of two Arsenal defenders identified as a target by Serie A champions AC Milan

Pablo Mari embracing Ainsley Maitland-Niles

AC Milan have taken note of the performances of two defenders Arsenal loaned out in the 2021-22 season, after reports revealed their interest in Pablo Mari and William Saliba.

Arsenal relied on a centre-back partnership of Benjamin White and Gabriel Magalhaes last season. They provided a solid base at the back. In support, Rob Holding was a useful option.

But other defenders, despite their talents, struggled to force their way into Mikel Arteta’s plans. Saliba spent the whole season on loan at Marseille, before Mari went to Udinese in January.

Each spell away was beneficial for the players in question. Saliba enjoyed more than 50 appearances in France, while Mari made 15 in Italy.

Arsenal will now have to decide what to do with each player. There is probably only room for one of them to compete with Gabriel, White and Holding.

An expectancy has been growing recently that they will finally offer Saliba a first-team role. Their plans for Mari have been leaning in the opposite direction; selling him on a permanent basis to Udinese may be a likely outcome.

However, it has now emerged that the Spaniard has picked up an admirer elsewhere in Serie A. According to Corriere Dello Sport, champions AC Milan have added him to their shortlist.

The Rossoneri want a new centre-back to strengthen a title-winning squad. Their chances of beating Newcastle to the signature of Sven Botman are up for question, though.

It now appears that Mari is on their radar as another option. Udinese want to keep him, but do not have the right of first refusal, so his future is all to play for.

Mari is cheaper than Botman would be for Milan. What’s more, he is actively looking to leave Arsenal since Arteta has a lack of space for him.

Interestingly, Milan’s city rivals Inter are also said to be keen on Mari. Yet Udinese will no doubt be doing all in their – comparatively smaller – power to keep him with them instead.

Pablo Mari more realistic for Milan, but Udinese stay may be preferable

Elsewhere, Stefano Pioli’s side were recently linked with Saliba by MilanNews. However, it would seem he may be too expensive for them as well.

Pablo Mari won’t be coming back to Arsenal and will stay in Italy

Arsenal on loan defender Pablo Mari won’t return to Arsenal and wants to stay with Udinese in Italy

Mari, on the other hand, would be a more achievable target. At the age of 28, he is at a good stage of his career to lend him his experience too.

Milan could therefore go into the new campaign with a wealth of options at the back, including Fikayo Tomori, Pierre Kalulu, Simon Kjaer and possibly Mari in addition.

He would have to be careful about his playing time, though. Perhaps his best option would be to make his Udinese move permanent, since he knows he is likely to keep getting minutes there.

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