Arsenal are going toe-to-toe with rivals Tottenham Hotspur to land Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos and could have stolen an early march, according to ElDesmarque.com.
The report claims that the Gunners have launched a €48 million (£43.1 million) bid for the Spain international, who was out of favour at the Bernabeu under Zinedine Zidane towards the end of last season.
It is thought that the offer may be enough to tempt the La Liga giants to part ways with the playmaker, but they will be hoping it sparks a bidding war between the North London clubs.
Real Betis, Ceballos’ former club, and Sevilla were also thought to be interested in his signature, but whether they can compete with the finances of the Premier League remains to be seen.
A player very much in the mould of compatriots such as Xavi and Andres Iniesta, the 22-year-old is most comfortable with the ball at his feet, with a keen eye for a pass and the ability to take players on.
However, he’s not one to shy away from a tackle either, and would offer Arsenal some solidarity in the middle of the park if he does make the move to the Emirates Stadium.
Despite being able to play deep in the centre or in a slightly more advanced midfield role, his two seasons at Madrid to date have seen Ceballos struggle for regular football, making just 35 league appearances in the famous white shirt, many of which have come from the bench.
He made his full international bow last year, but returned to the under-21 team this summer to help them to a fifth European Championships victory, starring with two goals and two assists at the finals.
The acquisition of Ceballos would signal a major statement of intent for Arsenal, as well as demonstrating that they can still attract top talent without Champions League football.
Tottenham were lining the youngster up if Christian Eriksen departed the club, but it’s up in the air as to whether they would be willing to match the huge bid from their old enemy.
Arsenal are known to have limited funds to spend this summer, and bringing in Ceballos may mean other players are shown the exit door to balance the books.