Arsenal are pursuing a transfer deal for Spain U-21 midfield ace Asier Illarramendi, according to reports in the UK press. Both The Daily Mail and The Daily Express link Arsenal with a move for the young Real Sociedad star.
Illarramendi is the second Spanish youngster Arsenal have been heavily linked with this summer. The club is also credited with an interest in Levante winger Ruben Garcia, according to The Daily Mirror.
Illarramendi fits the mold of the type of footballer Gunners boss Arsene Wenger wants for his midfield. The 23-year-old is a quality passer, adept in the type of neat and intricate style favored in the Spanish game.
That is a style Wenger is still attempting to replicate at Arsenal. He has constructed his squad around the talents of diminutive and technically-competent midfield schemers.
Quick pass-and-move players like Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky, define the way Wenger wants his team to attack the opposition.
But many believe that amid all of this artistry, the Gunners need a stout ball-winner with a defensive mindset. Illarramendi could be the answer, but he does not boast the physical power some crave. He is a deep-lying player, but he is not a destroyer.
Illarramendi wins possession with intelligent positioning, patience and well-timed interceptions. He is not the tough-tackling, driving force that will quickly transition defence to attack.
But that might suit Wenger's vision for this squad. After all, the Spanish tiki-taka does not depend on a powerhouse to anchor the midfield.
Sergio Busquets is the closest the Spaniards have to a midfield destroyer and he is no Claude Makelele. Busquets' value is his excellent positional sense and his composed, accurate distribution.
Having a deep-lying midfielder does let the advanced flair players concentrate more on getting forward and probing for openings. But Arsenal already possess this kind of player in Spanish veteran Mikel Arteta.
They could used Illarramendi to initially partner and then eventually succeed the 31-year-old. That is a plausible theory, but it might not be so easy to lure Illarramendi from Sociedad.
Real did qualify for the UEFA Champions League. Also The Express, citing a report in Spanish publication EL Confidencial, suggests the player has a £25.7 million release clause.
Wenger may look to capitalize on the financial insecurity in La Liga and secure a cheaper deal. But even if he does, The Mail's claim of a £10 million bid seems far-fetched.
Illarramendi's stock will have risen further after his participation in Spain's triumphant European U-21 championship campaign. The young Iberians took the tournament crown in convincing fashion and Illarramendi was a key figure.
There is good reason to believe Arsenal's interest in Illarramendi is real. He fits their Spanish-style brand of football and the Gunners do need another deep-lying playmaker.
But Illarramendi's rising reputation and Sociedad's recent success, means Arsenal face a tough task making this deal a reality.