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Lautaro Martinez to Arsenal transfer rumor

Uh, yes please. I would like one (1) Lautaro Martinez at Arsenal.

Brazil v Argentina: Final - Copa America Brazil 2021 Photo by Wagner Meier/Getty Images

Arsenal are exploring a transfer move for Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez according to multiple reports, including in The Athletic. The Argentinian international joined the now Italian champions three seasons ago and has turned into a burgeoning superstar over the past two seasons, scoring 21 and 19 goals in 49 and 47 matches in all competitions respectively.

I wouldn’t get too excited about the move quite yet, although David Ornstein adding his name to the rumor certainly gives it more weight. For now, the link is not much more than “Arsenal asked about Martinez while talking to Inter about Héctor Bellerín” — it’s got nothing about whether Inter were receptive or if they laughed and hung up the phone.

Martinez wasn’t really on Arsenal’s radar or part of the transfer blueprint at the start of the summer — it’s an interest born of opportunity rather than planning. I’ve said since last summer that the financial strain on the football market caused by COVID presents a window of opportunity for clubs with the money to be buyers in this cash-strapped market. That is exactly what this rumor is.

Inter are in a tough spot financially and recently had to secure €275M in bridge financing. They’re looking to cut costs as much as 20% this summer. Even with the €60M (plus a potential €10M in add-ons) they received from Achraf Hakimi’s sale to Paris St.-Germain, the Italian side need to generate more cash from player sales to close the window €80M in the black, which is where The Athletic reports they need to be.

Obviously, selling Martinez would generate a hefty chunk of change. He is the real deal and would immediately improve Arsenal’s attack. He’d also give the Gunners long term security up top, which would be nice for a position that may be a question mark for the club sooner than we think.

I’ve already written about the striker situation at Arsenal, but I’ll recap. The Gunners are set for the next two seasons with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — he can lead the line himself or play off the left. He’ll either leave on a free when that contract is up, sign a bumper deal for another year or two, or be sold next summer, but that third option is the least likely.

Alexandre Lacazette doesn’t have a long term future at the Emirates. It might be worth more to Arsenal to have him play out his contract and to help the club get back into Europe than whatever minimal transfer fee they’d get for him — he’s not generating much interest.

I’m not convinced that Eddie Nketiah is an Arsenal-level player, and my feeling is that the club isn’t sure either. He has transfer value, however, because he’s young, homegrown, and has shown some ability as a goal-poacher at the very least.

Folarin Balogun, while extremely promising, has 76 minutes of first team, senior football to his name. I think and hope he’ll develop into a star, but it’s just too early to realistically tell.

Gabriel Martinelli also fits into the picture somehow, although his being in Tokyo at the Olympics and missing preseason isn’t ideal when it comes to his role at Arsenal in the immediate short term, i.e. to start the season. I don’t know if his long term position is off the wing or through the middle, but he’s really good. If he continues on his current trajectory, he’ll be a starter sooner rather than later.

Back to Lautaro Martinez. Adding him is reportedly contingent on moving Alexandre Lacazette out. Arsenal have offered the French striker to Inter as makeweight in a potential deal, but the Italians reportedly want cash in return. Much more realistic is sending Héctor Bellerín the other way in a cash + player deal. Bellerín has been linked to the Serie A side for most of the summer and is much more likely to tempt Inter off their demands for a cash only deal than Lacazette — they do need a replacement right back, after all.

Bottom line: it would be a fantastic move but let’s hold off on the excitement for now. There’s just a smidgen, a scintilla of evidence to push this transfer rumor out of “wild speculation” territory into the “possible but not likely” zone. And even that might be more hopeful dot-connecting than anything concrete.