Reported Arsenal target Fernando Llorente looks to have moved a step closer to an exit from Athletic Bilbao after a training-ground altercation with manager Marcelo Bielsa. The striker has less than a year remaining on his contract at San Mames and has thus far shown no indication that he will sign a new deal. That decision has led to a falling out with sections of the club’s fans as well as Bielsa who has yet to start Llorente in a single game this season. The 27-year-old was a late substitute in a 2-0 defeat at Real Sociedad on Saturday.
Now the relationship appears to have taken another turn for the worse, with a video showing Llorente walking away from a training session after being addressed by Argentine Bielsa. Spanish publication Marca claims that Bielsa was not happy with the Spanish international’s performance in training.
Llorente was strongly linked to Juventus in the summer, with reports that the Serie A champions will continue their interest in January. However, Arsenal are also said to be interested in the powerful frontman as they look to replace the goals lost with Robin van Persie’s summer departure.
While Athletic refused to allow Llorente to leave for anything less than his €36 million (£28.8m) buyout clause in the summer, they may be forced to sell for a cut-price fee in January or risk him negotiating a deal to leave for nothing come the summer.
Meanwhile, there has been further speculation about Arsenal’s own contract rebel. On the back of his recent comments that he wants to play in a striking role, Theo Walcott is being targeted by Manchester City and Arsenal, according to the Daily Mirror.
The report states that both clubs will offer the England international the role he seeks as part of a revolving strike force. Walcott turned down Arsenal’s offer of a new contract in August and recently claimed that his delay in signing a new deal was his desire to move from the wing to playing centrally.
With less than 12 months remaining on his contract and no indication that manager Arsene Wenger is ready to bow to Walcott’s demands, Arsenal may look to cash in on the 23-year-old come January. Walcott could also negotiate a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club from January to leave for nothing in the summer.
In recent days, Arsenal have been linked with a move for Udinese’s right sided player Dusan Basta. The versatile 28-year-old Serbian international has been deployed at right wingback by the Serie A side this season and is said to have his admirers at the Emirates, according to Italian publication Calcio Mercato.
Arsenal are also said to be pursuing Guingamp’s young midfielder Gianelli Imbula. The 20-year-old is earning high praise in France, according to the Sun, despite playing in Ligue 2. Imbula made his mark for Guingamp as they were promoted from the third tier of French soccer in the 2010-2011 season and continued to be a regular in the second division last season.