With Antonio Conte leaving Inter Milan and the club facing significant financial problems which mean valuable players will need to be sold, Arsenal may have hope of signing Achraf Hakimi to address their problems at right-back.
Arsenal have plenty of work of their own to do this summer and it’s thought Hector Bellerin will be one of many to depart the Emirates in the upcoming transfer window.
Spain international Bellerin has been at the club since 2013 but is out of contract in 2023 so is entering the stage where the Gunners must extend his agreement or move him on.
The fact it is thought he doesn’t want to sign an extension means Arsenal’s decision has been made for them.
A parting of ways this summer seems likely and most sensible and while back-up Cedric Soares made 24 first-team starts in 2020-21, the Portuguese is not the quality of starting right-back Arsenal need to get back into the Champions League.
That’s where Inter Milan come in. Conte has departed due to the fact the newly-crowned Italian champions want to sell at least £69million (€80m) worth of talent to balance their books.
The Italian wanted to, if anything, invest more into his team in order to go again for the Scudetto next term and also compete in the Champions League. They may still compete for both crowns, but not under the former Juventus and Chelsea manager.
And Hakimi is among the players who could become available given he could fetch a substantial fee for Inter as they seek to balance their books, despite the Moroccan having only joined from Real Madrid a year ago for £36m.
Still only 22, Hakimi has established himself as one of the finest attack-minded right-backs in Europe and from a more advanced right-midfield role in Inter’s 3-5-2 system under Conte, contributed seven goals and 11 assists in 45 outings.
That followed back-to-back campaigns in Germany’s Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund where his output was 12 goals and 17 assists in 73 games across all competitions.
Real Madrid took the surprising decision to sell Hakimi in the summer of 2020 despite his quality and he could be moved on again just 12 months later, this time by Inter.
Though Hakimi was pictured making it clear that he wants to stay at Inter following the final day win over Udinese, the fact that their financial struggles have led to Conte’s departure mean an exit for the Madrid-born African cannot be ruled out either.
“I’m planning my future with Inter. I hope to stay for a long time, I’m happy here,” he said last month. But things have changed, and so may that attitude in the coming months.
Without Conte in charge, there is no guarantee Inter will be as competitive next season, especially if they are forced to sell multiple major assets. Should a big bid arrive, Conte not being at the club means the board may more be inclined to sell too, even if it is against the player’s wishes.
Bayern Munich-linked Hakimi is valued at £43million according to Goal and so represents a player who could recoup a big fee for the Inter owners Suning.
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And his agent Alejandro Camano recently indicated it is not impossible the player could leave the San Siro, stating: “Who wouldn’t want to play for Bayern Munich?”
Granted, Arsenal are not the powerhouse that Bayern are and they don’t have any European football to offer. But the footballing project of Arteta and co. has been instrumental in enticing others to England’s capital.
It could keep Real Madrid’s Martin Odegaard at the Emirates for next season while his team-mate Dani Ceballos has also spoken highly of the manager and his ideas, with Thomas Partey ditching Atletico Madrid – now the Spanish champions – to join a year ago despite no Champions League football.
It is not out of the question that Arsenal, still a gigantic club, could tempt Hakimi over from Italy even though they are outside of even the Europa League and Europa Conference League. Certainly they should at least try.
Hakimi would be an upgrade on Bellerin and Cedric, and is also another level up on Norwich’s Max Aarons, another right-back target Arsenal are keeping tabs on, for all of the Englishman’s promise.
The 34-cap Morocco international could match the kind of balanced attacking and defensive abilities offered by Kieran Tierney on the opposite side of the back-line.
And while £43m is a huge chunk of money for a cash-stricken side like Arsenal, Hakimi is young enough to repay that in time and looks a relatively safe investment given his performance levels in both Germany and Italy.
It wouldn’t be an easy or cheap deal, but if Arsenal could pull it off, they would be massively strengthening an area of the team and giving themselves a top-level right-back for the foreseeable future.
It would be the kind of signing that can help Arsenal begin to get back to battling for the top four again, and then eventually, major honours.