Arsenal remain hopeful of keeping hold of Theo Walcott, yet boss Arsene Wenger appears to be making plans for the in-form forward’s departure.
Walcott thrust his precarious contract situation back into sharp focus on Saturday as he struck a hat-trick in a 7-3 victory over Newcastle. With just six months remaining on his current deal at the Emirates, Walcott can begin negotiating a pre-contract agreement with foreign clubs from January 1.
Italian champions Juventus have been repeatedly mentioned as suitors, while, in the Premier League, the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea are reportedly interested. Wenger has claimed that there is no chance of Walcott being sold in a cut-price deal in January.
The Daily Mail has reported that Arsenal want Walcott’s future decided within two weeks and are confident that the 23-year-old will stay. Walcott turned down a deal with £75,000 a week in the summer and is believed to be seeking a figure closer to £100,000. He has also stated that he wants to feature regularly as a central striker, as he has done in the club’s past three matches.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Arsenal are pursuing Manchester United winger Nani as a potential replacement should Walcott depart. The Portuguese winger has 18 months remaining on his contract at Old Trafford and has been linked with various moves away from the club in recent times. The Telegraph claims that Nani would be available for £16 million.
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The report also suggests that Arsenal could use Walcott in a part exchange deal for Nani in addition to a £10 million fee. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has dismissed talk of Nani leaving, however.
"His contract isn't up for a year and a half,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “He offers something different from the other players. He's an incredible talent, the boy.
"He's got a future here. Why would I want to let him go?"
Another option, who Arsenal have long been linked to. is Crystal Palace starlet Wilfried Zaha. The 20-year-old winger has earned rave reviews for his performances in the Championship this season and is interesting the Gunners as well as Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, according to the Guardian.
As they chase promotion to the Premier League, Palace are understandably reluctant to sanction Zaha’s sale in January, however Zaha has suggested that he is ready for a move.
"To be honest, if I had the chance in January and Palace agreed, it's something I'd want," Zaha said, according to the Guardian. "I'm not a teenager any more. I've played more than 100 first-team games and this year is crucial to develop my football career. I want to establish myself in the Premier League and in international football."
If they are unable to keep hold of the England international then Palace are believed to be after £15 million, although they may have to accept an offer close to £10 million, report the Guardian.
In other news, Arsenal are said to be considering making a £10 million move for Everton left-back Leighton Baines, according to the Daily Star.
The 28-year-old England international has also been strongly linked to both Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain in recent times. Arsenal would reportedly be prepared to offer up to £15 million for Baines, although Everton are unlikely to allow him to depart before at least the end of the season.