Sancho future, Chelsea LB hunt and more

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Mikel Arteta has no plans to leave Arsenal despite links with Barcelona.

Arteta has already addressed suggestions he could exit Arsenal this summer, and firmly shut them down.

“No. That’s totally fake news,” he said in January. “I don’t know where that’s coming from, but it’s totally untrue and I’m very upset about it.”

Barcelona haven’t made an approach to Arteta to date, but it’s unsurprising he’s being linked and spoken of internally at the Catalan club.

Arteta was also considered by Barcelona in March 2021 prior to Ronald Koeman’s appointment, and given he played for Barcelona’s youth and B teams between 1997 and 2002, it would be strange if he wasn’t linked.

But Arteta is only focused on Arsenal and trying to win their first Premier League title since 2003/04, and go as far as possible in the Champions League.

The expectation is Arteta will sign a new contract at Arsenal with his current deal running until 2025.

Arteta is settled at Arsenal and views the project as stable. A move to Barcelona, as the outgoing Xavi has already found, is not easy. There is quite a bit of politics, plus financial challenges, to deal with.

Arteta is working well in the current structure at Arsenal and has a strong relationship with the leadership team, including sporting director Edu.

Barcelona will always have a big lure, but there’s no doubt Arteta would be walking into a far less stable club right now than Arsenal if he chose to leave, and I would be surprised, should an approach come, if he’d be tempted.

Chelsea are looking for a left-back this summer. That’s because Lewis Hall will join Newcastle for an initial £28m. Chelsea have already budgeted for his departure. The obligation to buy becomes official if Newcastle finish 15th or better in the Premier League.

Ian Maatsen is also expected to depart. The 22-year-old is having an excellent spell on loan at Dortmund. There is no option or obligation to buy, but the German club are keen to sign Maatsen permanently. Chelsea will be looking for £30-35m.

Marc Cucurella could also potentially be sold should the right offer arrive, so it’s obvious why Chelsea feel they need another left-back.

Bournemouth’s Milos Kerkez is one name on Chelsea’s radar. There is nothing advanced yet, but Chelsea, along with Manchester United, have scouted the talented 20-year-old Hungarian. Kerkez has also been teasing Chelsea fans a little with his social media activity. Scouting doesn’t mean a great deal, and nothing of note is progressing yet, but Kerkez is one to watch in the coming windows.

Chelsea have plenty of other options. One is Bayern’s Alphonso Davies, but the feeling is he’ll end up at Real Madrid if he leaves Bayern. Chelsea know this so it would be quite surprising if they prioritise Davies. It’s little more than admiration from afar at this point.

Alphonso Davies could be a transfer option for Chelsea

Wolves’ Rayan Ait-Nouri is going to be in demand this summer, but it’s still too early to tell if Chelsea will move.

Right now, Chelsea have a long list of targets and they have yet to lock in a leading name. That’s kind of to be expected at this time of year.

There is no doubt Chelsea will look to buy young – that’s their strategy in every position at the moment – but I am not convinced the name will be solely seen as a ‘back up’ to Ben Chilwell.

The excellent signing of Malo Gusto, Chelsea’s most consistent player of late, is proof of how a young right-sided fullback can break through when given an opportunity. And Reece James, even as club captain, arguably now has a task on his hands when fit to win back his place.

Djordje Petrovic is another example of a young player who took advantage of Robert Sanchez’s injury and is currently Chelsea’s No.1. Players are being rewarded at Chelsea on form not reputation. That’s also why Trevoh Chalobah is getting game time and Thiago Silva has been benched.

So Chelsea’s pitch to any left-sided fullback will definitely be that they can get significant minutes now rather than only in the future.

And, of course, players such as Ait-Nouri and even Kerkez would likely never agree to join if they feared they couldn’t get regular starts from day one.

There’s no doubt Jadon Sancho is loving life back at Dortmund, but a permanent move has its complications.

Dortmund need to be able to compensate Manchester United and afford Sancho’s wages. And it’s a big outlay to sign him and Ian Maatsen, who the German club also wish to secure.

Manchester United want at least £50m for Sancho. This was the number they quoted to Saudi clubs last summer prior to Sir Jim Ratcliffe taking over sporting control.

That proposed fee may have even risen closer to £60m given Sancho is now playing regularly and there may be other clubs circling this summer.

Sancho doesn’t want to go to Saudi but that’s unlikely to stop dealmakers trying again, and this may give Manchester United a bit of leverage.

Al-Ettifaq made a loan enquiry last summer, and Al-Shabab and Al-Ahli will consider an approach if they get encouragement from the player side. But Sancho has to date dismissed Saudi approaches. He ideally wants to stay at Dortmund.

Dortmund are hoping for a bargain deal, which feels a bit hopeful. Their starting point is only around £30m, and that’s not going to be accepted.

There are a lot of moving parts. It’s probably fair to say if Erik ten Hag stays, Sancho will almost certainly be sold – at least unless he apologises to the Manchester United boss. But if Ten Hag was to leave this summer, Sancho would consider a return. He has no issue with Manchester United as a club, but the feeling for many months is that there is no way forward for him at Old Trafford under Ten Hag.

Some reports suggest a solution might be for Manchester United to swap Sancho for Donyell Malen with both players valued at similar numbers. It’s a neat narrative, and Malen is in good form of late, but I am still told Manchester United want cash for Sancho. This will allow them to move more freely in the market and ease any FFP or profit and sustainability concerns.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas says Barcelona must sell “two or three of their top-class players” to meet the league’s spending cap.

Barcelona recently saw their annual spending limit cut by €66m to €204m, and their squad costs are currently around €400m.

It’s difficult to predict who could be sold this summer until it’s clear who the new Barcelona manager is, even though Deco is already working towards the summer.

Jules Kounde and Raphinha are clearly two sellable assets, but neither want to leave. It’s just a case of whether Barcelona’s hand is forced. Raphinha will certainly have some Saudi interest.

Kounde is playing out of position at right back, and Barcelona have other centre-back options. 17-year-old Pau Cubarsi breaking through is potentially bad news for Kounde.

Chelsea are not currently looking at Kounde, despite originally vying with Barcelona in summer 2022 to sign him. PSG are prioritising Lille’s Leny Yoro, but if they fail in that pursuit then they could consider Kounde as an option.

The French champions are also keen on Gavi and perhaps hoping to capitalise on Barcelona’s need to sell some star assets. But Barcelona view Gavi as untouchable and a future captain, and PSG obviously have no plans to trigger his astronomical €1bn release clause.

Robert Lewandowski has previously shot down an exit, and specifically a move to Saudi, but dealmakers haven’t entirely ruled out an approach this summer.

Meanwhile, I don’t expect Frenkie de Jong to leave. He has been consistent in his desire to stay.

Sources say it’s not impossible Andreas Christensen is sold even though the player is reluctant to depart – which seems to be common amongst potential outgoings.

And keep an eye on Ronald Araujo, who would be a pretty unpopular exit given his form and importance to the team. Joan Laporta has already said he’d hand Araujo a “lifetime contract” if money was no object. Bayern have explored Araujo in the past, but that was very much Thomas Tuchel-driven and now he’s departing, the German club may have other options in mind.

Barcelona need to sell, but the kind of fees floated to date don’t suggest Deco is looking to sanction anything cut-price. But it’s clear some players will need to depart for healthy fees to ease Barca’s financial situation.

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