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Arsenal Transfer Rumor: Is Ionut Radu the backup GK solution?

Who will replace Petr Cech as Bernd Leno’s backup?

England U21 v Romania U21 - International Friendly Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

With Petr Cech retiring and Bernd Leno securing the number one spot in goal for Arsenal this past season, there is an opening in the depth chart. Will the club chose to save money, during an expected tight summer, and go with a familiar name to Arsenal fans, or will they see an opportunity to strengthen at the position in the market?

Regardless of how well Leno did this past season, he can’t play in every competition. During 2018/19 Leno made 35 starts compared to Cech’s 22. It’s plausible that Leno lands in the starting XI 50+ times next season. We saw Kepa play 54 times for Chelsea this year. But that seems to be more a function of the drop off in Chelsea’s GK talent level after Kepa. Arsenal haven’t had that problem in recent years, but will they in 2019/20?

Ionut Radu’s agent makes the link

Recently the outlet FC Inter News quoted Radu’s agent, Crescenzo Cecere, that several clubs were looking at a move for his player this summer. Keep in mind a couple things: first, this is not exactly a well-sourced, mainstream outlet, and there’s no actual “reporting” in the piece - it’s basically an agent hyping up one of his players, looking to drive up a transfer value among clubs or get a better contract at his current club, and doing so by blasting an “interview” at any site that’ll publish it. So, pretty large grain of salt there, for sure.

However, Radu does seem to fit the profile for the player Arsenal have been looking for lately and the profile that the club needs to pursue over the next few transfer windows.

Udinese v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Who is Ionut Radu?

Only 22-years-old, the Romania keeper has seen his profile steadily increase over the past two years. He has been a regular for the Romania U21 side, making 13 appearances and wearing the captains arm band. With both of the senior Romanian national team’s keepers already 30+, the expectation is that Radu could be the number one soon, and for a long time to come.

Radu joined the Inter Milan academy setup in 2013 and made his senior debut at the end of the 2015/16 season. Since then he’s done what you would expect a talented young keeper who is owned by a high profile club to do - the seemingly endless loan journey. He spent time with Avellino in Serie B, and then went on a loan-to-buy deal with Genoa in Serie A. He appeared 33 times for Genoa, and at the moment is expected to be the club’s starter next season.

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Arsenal’s free* options

The other avenue for Arsenal is to simply use one of the three keepers still on the books.

  • David Ospina
  • Emiliano Martinez
  • Matt Macey

Ospina is the most experienced, but he’ll be 31 this August. He is the only keeper of the three that could return a worthy transfer value at the moment, and there are hints that Napoli may move to sign Ospina after his loan spell there.

Macey featured on loan for Plymouth Argyle in League One. And while he gained experience, the club suffered a poor season and have been relegated to League Two. It’s doubtful Arsenal see Macey as ready for even the backup role, so another year on loan is likely while Arsenal decide if he has a future in London or needs to be released.

All this leaves Martinez as the most likely option, and the one being rumored the most at the moment to back up Leno. He’s been a loanee journeyman for the past eight years, having only appeared for Arsenal six times during that stretch. Last season, he was on a Reading side that was nearly relegated out of the Championship.

None of these options seem great. Do you want any of these three starting 20 some matches for Arsenal in the Europa League and Cup competitions? And do you really want Leno pushed to start 50+ times, knowing that if he is injured this is the full set of options?

Genoa are only finally getting Radu on a full deal, for about £7 million come July 1st. But that presumably wouldn’t stop them or the player agreeing to a move for the right amount. If Arsenal could sell Ospina to Napoli for even £5 million, Radu might be worth splashing another £10 million on top of that to secure him.

That would give Arsenal keepers that are 26 and 22 years old, both yet to reach their ceilings, and transfer values that will continue to climb. As the club reshapes itself over the next year or two, these are the kind of deals that can help Arsenal pivot away from the aging and contractual nightmares plaguing the team lately.