Reports: Barcelona to hijack Arsenal's €100 million move for midfielder to replace Andres Iniesta
What's the story?
Arsenal are all set to lose out on AS Monaco midfielder Thomas Lemar yet again, as Barcelona are reportedly ready to rival their bid in January, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph.
Despite their stellar start to the season, the La Liga giants are insistent on bringing in a creative midfielder to serve as the long-term replacement for Andres Iniesta, with manager Ernesto Valverde identifying the French international as the ideal target due to his ability to play centrally and out wide.
Liverpool are also said to be keen on Lemar, but with the Blaugrana having given up in the chase for Philippe Coutinho, the Reds might hold off on spending a fee in the range of €100 million.
In case you didn't know...
Having spent his childhood at Solidarité Scolaire, Lemar joined the academy at Caen in 2010, at the age of 15. He made his first-team debut three years later, albeit in Ligue 2. His impressive performances led to AS Monaco parting with €4 million to bring him in at the start of the 2015/16 season. The Frenchman signed a new deal last season, which was designed to keep him at the club until 2020.
The heart of the matter
The 2016/17 season was undoubtedly Lemar's breakout year, with the midfielder involved in 31 goals (14 goals, 17 assists) in 55 appearances for the eventual Ligue 1 champions. Like the rest of his team, however, Lemar has had a relatively quiet start to the 2017/18 season, only managing 1 goal and 3 assists in 14 appearances for Monaco in all competitions.
Lemar's mediocre form has not dimmed his star, as Arsenal are set to go back for him in January after coming close in the summer. In an interview with Sky Sports, Vadim Vasilyev, Monaco's vice-president, said "Liverpool were really interested. But it was Arsenal that was really close to finalising the deal."
"It was quite close. At the same time, it was just too late, not enough time, to really follow up on this deal. Not all the elements of the puzzle fell in place. I'm very happy he stayed with us."
Also Read: 5 alternatives to Thomas Lemar for Arsenal
Despite Arsenal's huge offer, Barcelona could gazump the deal as they present a far more attractive prospect to the player. Lemar could potentially reignite Barcelona's midfield with creativity, thus allowing Lionel Messi to play further forward. However, a potential problem for Barcelona is that Lemar is reportedly demanding a €280,000-a-week salary - which may prove an obstacle to the deal going through.
Thomas Lemar would undoubtedly improve Barcelona if he were to go, and is perhaps a better option that Phillipe Coutinho. Liverpool have made it clear that they will not sell, and negotiations with AS Monaco are likely to be far easier.
The Frenchman has already linked up well with Ousmane Dembele on national duty, and the duo could form a terrific partnership on Barcelona's left-hand side.