Premier League • England

Barcelona barge into Arsenal transfer battle by identifying next top target

Samuel Bannister
Renato Sanches looking at Houssem Aouar

Renato Sanches has become a priority target for Barcelona in a blow to any hopes Arsenal have of landing the Lille midfielder, according to reports.

Sanches has done well to rebuild his career following difficult stints with Bayern Munich and Swansea City. The Portuguese talent joined Lille in 2019 and lifted the Ligue 1 title with them last season.

Still only 24 years old, he could be ready for another attempt at a big transfer. Arsenal are reportedly willing to give him a second chance in the Premier League.

According to ELEVEN in his native Portugal, though (via The Sun), Barcelona have now made it their main concern to sign Sanches.

Despite their financial difficulties, Barca are aiming to improve their playing squad. They have already snapped up Ferran Torres from Manchester City this winter.

Next on their agenda is Sanches, who could bring new qualities to their midfield.

Lille are open to letting the Euro 2016 winner leave in January if the offer is right. With Sanches out of contract in 2023, they are holding out for around £25m.

It remains to be seen how Barcelona would fund a deal, but Arsenal may have to hurry up if they still want to sign Sanches.

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The Gunners’ midfield will be depleted in the coming weeks. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is joining Roma on loan, while Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey have headed to the African Cup of Nations.

It will be important for them to find a way to plug the gaps. But if Sanches is their solution they will have to beat Barcelona to his signature.

Renato Sanches tipped to be Arsenal success

Renato Sanches Lille November 2021

Before Barcelona’s interest emerged, one pundit suggested it would be wise for Arsenal to acquire him.

In December, Kevin Campbell told Football Insider: “I think he would be very good if they can get him in.

“He’s suffered with injuries but he’s still young. He’s a powerhouse in that midfield – he can pick the ball up, run, he can shoot, he can create.

“Having that power in the midfield can make a huge difference. No disrespect to him but against Liverpool [in a 4-0 loss in November], for example, [Albert] Sambi Lokonga was taken off by [Mikel] Arteta to save him. He was getting robbed time after time in that midfield.

“Maybe there needs to be a bit more experience in there, and Sanches would bring it.

“There’s a big opportunity for Arsenal – they’re still fifth in the table [they have since moved fourth]. They will be trying to improve the top end of the pitch and pushing for those top four places.”

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