Exclusive: £50m Arsenal transfer target expected to move, Chelsea midfielder links & more – Jonathan Johnson

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Expectation is that £50m Arsenal target Moussa Diaby WILL move

Moussa Diaby continues to be linked with Arsenal, and their interest doesn’t surprise me, nor does talk of a fee of around £50m being enough to prise him away from Bayer Leverkusen this summer. Diaby has really developed well with Leverkusen and it could even be that that price tag will creep up if they reach the Europa League final as well.

In terms of Diaby’s situation, it’s seemed for some time now that this could be the summer he moves. PSG were linked with a move to bring him back to the French capital, but that seems unrealistic given the fee they sold him for in comparison to how much he’d be worth now. I do think his kind of talent and consistency that we’ve seen from him in the Bundesliga in the last few years would justify a fee in the region of £50m, so clubs would do well to get him for something around that figure.

The expectation is that Diaby will now get a move to a big European club, and there is a lot of interest from the Premier League, not just from Arsenal but from Newcastle United as well. He’s definitely one to watch and it has the potential to be a good few months ahead for him if he can guide Leverkusen to the Europa League final and then get a big move.

Lyon could see mass exodus this summer

It’s been quite a tumultuous last few days for Lyon, and it’s important to clarify one or two things. Firstly, although club president Jean-Michel Aulas might look from the outside like he’s stepping down of his own volition, it’s actually not quite like that. When he and John Textor agreed the deal for Lyon, there was an option for Textor to buy Aulas’ ability to step down and pave the way for him and his group to run the club, and that was formalised last week, which is why Aulas is no longer in the picture, though he hasn’t publicly communicated about leaving the role. Textor has since held a press conference and it seems this all came into being because Lyon have been regressing for too long and need to modernise how they work from now on, particularly with things like recruitment and scouting, which has received some criticism in recent years.

It’s not a huge surprise because Aulas has spoken before about this clause that gives Textor the option to complete a full takeover, but the initial agreement was for at least three more years of Aulas overseeing the club, whereas it’s ended up being more like six months.

So there’s a lot going on at Lyon at the moment, not to mention with that thrilling 5-4 win over Montpellier which boosts their chances of getting into Europe. Houssem Aouar is expected to leave at this moment in time, but, despite talk of an agreement with Roma, my understanding is that a number of clubs interested in him have struggled to meet his demands, most notably with regards to his salary, hence why nobody has announced him as a new arrival for the summer just yet.

Lyon are still pushing for Europe, but if they don’t manage to qualify, it could be a tricky summer – there will be a lot of players who will want to leave Lyon if they don’t have European football. Rayan Cherki could be one, as he’s been interesting clubs for the last few transfer windows, Castello Lukeba as well is a much-sought-after talent, and Bradley Barcola has exploded onto the scene and has a number of European teams interested in his profile. There’s also Maxence Caqueret, who’s had interest in him for some time. Missing out on Europe will force these players to consider their futures – Lyon really want to keep top young players like this and build around them for the future, but it will be hard to persuade them if they’re not in Europe, so it’s vital that they pick up more points between now and the end of the season. The feeling is that at least one of those names will go.

The manager Laurent Blanc still seems to have the backing of the club, as Textor said in his press conference, and I don’t think he’d have said that if Blanc wasn’t in his plans, but the feeling is that some of the sporting leadership and Blanc could be moved on this summer, depending on how things go. Textor has made it clear he’d like a presidential figure based in Lyon, so there could be a new leadership figure coming in to replace Aulas at some point, though for now Textor will be overseeing things.

Thoughts on Chelsea links with a trio of French stars

Adrien Rabiot of Juventus could be on his way to the Premier League

We’ve seen Chelsea linked with three French midfield players in the form of Adrien Rabiot, Manu Kone, and Khephren Thuram ahead of this summer, and we’re certainly getting used to them being linked with almost every player on the market under Todd Boehly, but how much is there to these claims?

I can’t confirm the interest from Chelsea in all of them, but we know Rabiot is set to become a free agent this summer, so it could potentially happen. The big question-mark with Chelsea is about how they make space for these players – a lot of their targets will be aware that the Blues currently have a massively bloated squad and that a lot of the signings they’ve brought in recently haven’t featured heavily since their moves.

With top young talents like Kone and Thuram, who are looking for European football and who are likely to have other clubs in for them, it doesn’t really make sense for them to jump to a club like Chelsea, where playing time isn’t guaranteed and where there won’t be the chance to play in Europe next season. When you think that Kone could also have interest from PSG and Thuram’s being looked at by Liverpool and Newcastle, these would probably represent better moves for them to continue their progression.

For Rabiot it maybe wouldn’t matter as much, so he might be the most realistic of those options for Chelsea, because he’s firmly established in Didier Deschamps’ plans, whereas Kone and Thuram are just breaking through now, so need to keep on playing at the highest level in order to make their mark. So while Chelsea interest in all three players is understandable, I think Rabiot looks like the more likely to make that kind of move at this moment in time.

Lois Openda attracting interest from England

Lois Openda is an interesting player who’s been tracked by some of Europe’s biggest clubs for a while now. The 23-year-old Belgian has an impressive 19 goals in 34 Ligue 1 games this season, and Lens beat a few other clubs to the punch when he moved last summer.

Openda is certainly in a hot vein of form right now and is leading this Lens charge towards Champions League qualification, in what would be a massive achievement for the club. And to be honest, this opportunity to play in the Champions League with Lens could impact the ability of some Premier League clubs to snap him up. Arsenal have been linked with him, but it’s hard to imagine leaving Lens for someone like Aston Villa, while links with Leeds are also a non-starter.

From an economic standpoint, Lens might have to consider big offers if they came in, but there’s a very good atmosphere at the club and a lot of excitement about possibly playing in the Champions League, so I don’t think a departure is necessarily straightforward. That said, Lens probably will need to strengthen their squad to balance domestic and European football, so there’s something to think about there. A number of players in the Lens squad are attracting interest, and Openda is one of them.

Leeds do have a long-standing interest in the player, as I understand it, but it’s not going to happen while they’re in a relegation battle. Villa being in Europe could make them a more interesting prospect, but I don’t think Openda would be open to dropping down from the Champions League, and Villa are not even guaranteed to be playing in the Europa Conference League at this moment in time. Unai Emery’s presence could be attractive, and it’s a project that is starting to spark the interest of some more reputable players around Europe, but it’s going to require patience to get some of these big names to strongly consider a move to Villa Park.

I think that probably makes Arsenal the most likely destination if Openda does move to England. Lens will obviously try to keep as many star names as possible and Openda would make sense as being a priority in that respect. A big offer could turn their heads, but we’ll have to see if Arsenal are willing to pay that much for a striker right now when their priorities will probably be in midfield and defence.

Aston Villa more likely than West Ham to sign Matteo Guendouzi

Matteo Guendouzi is continuing to attract interest from Premier League clubs. I recently revealed that Aston Villa, managed by his former manager at Arsenal Unai Emery, could come in for him this summer and that it’s long been felt he would like another spell in England.

Despite reports about interest from West Ham, I haven’t had that confirmed to me, but it is a move that makes sense with the expectation that Declan Rice will move on this summer. Guendouzi brings Premier League experience, so could tick a lot of boxes for West Ham, but I still think a move to Villa would be more likely if they qualify for Europe. I think the lure of working with Emery is quite strong, so it’s just a question of whether or not they do qualify for the Europa League or Europa Conference League.

Still, assuming Rice does move on, Guendouzi would be a logical way for them to use that money, but with what’s gone on in the Premier League this season I’m not sure West Ham would be seen as the most attractive destination, unless they can pull off something special in the Europa Conference League.

Wherever he ends up, I think Marseille are resigned to losing Guendouzi this summer, and it’ll be interesting to see what he can achieve if he does return to the Premier League, as I think he’s improved a lot since his difficult spell at Arsenal as a youngster.

More Stories Bradley Barcola Castello Lukeba Houssem Aouar Jonathan Johnson Khephren Thuram Lois Openda Manu Kone Matteo Guendouzi Maxence Caqueret Moussa Diaby Rayan Cherki