• Arsenal is being linked to a transfer swoop for Inter Milan's Lautaro Martinez
  • Martinez was "very close" to joining Barcelona last season
  • Lionel Messi admires the 23-year-old's ability to score goals in bunches

Arsenal has set its sights on one of Lionel Messi’s remarkable Argentina teammates.

Pre-season has begun, but Arsenal still got its eyes on a couple of potential signings. Among the biggest names recently linked to the Gunners is Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, Football Insider reported, citing unnamed sources.

International Business Times could not independently verify this information.

Mikel Arteta’s side is well aware that it is impossible to match Inter Milan’s steep £75 million ($104 million) valuation of Martinez at the moment.

However, the Gunners have devised a strategic move and they are now hoping to lure the reigning Serie A champions into a deal by offering Hector Bellerin as part of a “player-plus-cash” swap deal bid, the report said.

Based on Arsenal’s understanding, Inter is “strapped for cash” and could seek to sell another star player, having already offloaded Achraf Hakimi.

Moreover, the Gunners believe that the Italian outfit would consider Bellerin as a suitable replacement for Hakimi, especially with the former’s future with his current club still deemed uncertain, the report added.

Lautaro Martinez of Internazionale, Jesus Navas of Sevilla
Lautaro Martinez of Internazionale, Jesus Navas of Sevilla Getty Images | Mattia Ozbot/Soccrates

Martinez has long been on the radar of a wide array of European clubs. However, it was Barcelona that came “very close” to signing him.

“I was truly very close to joining Barcelona and I even talked it over with [Lionel] Messi,” Martinez told ESPN in May. “However, the Blaugrana [Barcelona] had economic problems at that moment, so I decided to stay at Inter. It proved to be the right decision, especially as we then won the Scudetto [Serie A title].

“It’s just incredible to win the title at such an important club,” he continued.

This past season, Martinez bagged a total of 18 goals in 44 games for Inter Milan across all competitions.

Apart from club football, Martinez has also been a key figure in the Argentinian national team, having been a solid attacking partner of Messi, who has always been impressed by the 23-year-old’s ability to score “a lot of goals.”

“(Martinez) He’s spectacular,” the six-time Ballon d’Or winner said. “He has impressive qualities. You could tell he was going to be a great player and he is showing that.”

“He’s very strong, really good one on one, scores a lot of goals and in the area, he fights with anyone, holds it up, he can turn, scrap to win it all on his own. He has a lot of quality. He’s very complete.”