Arsenal are set to try and lure Fernando Llorente away from Athletic Bilbao in the January transfer window ahead of the expiration of his contract next summer, according to the Times. Llorente has already revealed that he will leave the club at the end of his deal and the 27-year-old will be free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with foreign clubs from January.
However, Arsenal, as well as fellow suitors Manchester City, will reportedly try to persuade Atheltic to part with the player next month. Athletic have thus far steadfastly refused to countenance allowing the Spain international to leave before the end of his contract.
The merit of that stance has been called into question, though, as Llorente has spent most of the season on the fringes of Marcelo Bielsa’s side. While they would get nowhere near his full market value with a January sale, Athletic may still be tempted by the prospect of recouping even a cut-price fee as well as ending a standoff that is overshadowing the club’s season.
If they are to compete with Manchester City for Llorente’s signature then the Gunners will hope that the promise of more regular first-team action could be a decisive factor. However, Juventus—who were strongly linked to the player last summer—are also likely to be in the running in January.
Signing a striker would appear to be a priority for Gunners boss Arsene Wenger in the New Year, with the club struggling in the final third. Their needs are only likely to increase with Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh expected to head off for the African cup of Nations next month.
As well as Llorente, Arsenal have also been linked to Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The Netherlands international is in the same contract predicament to Llorente and the Gunners have again been linked with a cut-price January move.
The likes of Liverpool and Inter Milan are also thought to be interested in the 29-year-old. Despite having a disappointing season in Italy with Inter’s rivals Milan, Huntelaar’s agent has said that a move to the Nerazzurri would appeal.
“He would not mind playing in Milan again–especially because Inter would give him the chance to show he is a great player,” said Arnold Oosterveer, according to Metro.
With Abou Diaby still on the sidelines, Arsenal could also reinforce the center of their midfield when the transfer window opens. According to the Sun, the Gunners will go head-to-head with Manchester United for the signing of PSV Eindhoven’s Kevin Strootman.
Strootman—reportedly valued at £17 million—has been repeatedly linked with United over several months, while Arsenal are also said to have watched the Netherlands international of late.
The Sun reports a PSV source as saying: “It looks certain that he will leave in January. The only question is where?
“It looks like Manchester United or Arsenal—they are both very keen.”
The quotes contradict previous comments both from PSV and Strootman’s agent that strongly suggested that there would be no movement before next summer at the earliest.
Arsenal are also strongly linked to Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. The 20-year-old’s performances in the Championship earned him a first England cap last month and have also reportedly attracted the interest of Arsenal and Manchester United.
However, Palace co-chairman Steve Parish has said that he is purely focused on doing what is best for the club in their quest to get back to the Premier League.
“We just want to put a lid on it now,” he said, according to the London Evening Standard. “All I care about is getting promoted. In the end, that’s all I care about.
“Wilfried is on a four-and-a-half year contract and every real offer that comes in, we look at it in the context of what’s best for our chances of getting promoted.”