Arsenal have been handed a boost in their efforts to sign Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar, with the Ligue 1 outfit reaching an agreement to sign Milan's Lucas Paqueta.
While the Gunners have managed to keep hold of Dani Ceballos for another season, Mikel Arteta has been keen to bring in further reinforcements in midfield this summer. Thomas Partey has been heavily linked with a move from Atletico Madrid, but Aouar is said to be Arteta's top target.
The 22-year-old is keen on making the switch to north London, but Lyon's £55m price tag has so far proven to be an issue. But Arsenal have now been handed a boost as Fabrizio Romano reports that Lyon are close to completing the signing of Paqueta, who could be a potential replacement for Aouar.
An agreement has been reached with Milan and the deal will be completed in the coming days after he agreed a contract with Lyon until the summer of 2025. RMC Sport note that while it was initially expected to be a loan deal, Paqueta will instead make the switch on a permanent basis for around €20m.
With regards to how this impacts the Gunners' pursuit of Aouar, Romano adds that the Premier League club are still pushing to sign the Frenchman and talks are ongoing. They have even confirmed to the player's agent that they are still negotiating to sign him. As of yet, however, no agreement has been reached.
One further spanner in the works could be interest from Serie A dominators Juventus, with a newer RMC Sport (via GFFN) report suggesting the Old Lady had made a formal approach for Aouar without actually making a bid. Details remain limited at the time of writing.
Arsenal recently made a £32m bid for Aouar, but this was quickly rejected as it fell well below Lyon's valuation. But while it has been noted a number of times that £55m may be what it takes for Les Gones to part ways with their star man, club president Jean-Michel Aulas did recently suggest that he could be available for around £10m less.
Speaking to CANAL Plus on Sunday (as quoted by Get French Football News), Aulas said: "There was a timid offer [by Arsenal for Aouar]. We felt like they didn’t consider the fact that this is a player in the French national team. So it was not an offer that was even susceptible to making us consider a sale."
But when asked whether Lyon are looking for either somewhere around €40m or €50m, Aulas replied: "It is certainly more than the first number that you mentioned."
The signing of Paqueta will undoubtedly give Arsenal confidence that an agreement can be reached before the deadline - but the issue of the transfer fee still remains.