According to The Sun, La Liga giants Atletico Madrid have been credited with an interest in Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin, with reports claiming that the Rojiblancos are prepared to offer winger Vitolo to the Gunners as a part of a player-plus-cash exchange deal.
The Sun understands that Atletico boss Diego Simeone is desperate to bring in a new right-back this summer and the Spanish heavyweights have identified Bellerin as someone who perfectly fits the bill, although the 24-year-old is currently undergoing a rehabilitation process, following a knee surgery back in January.
As the story goes, Arsenal are likely to demand a hefty fee of around £50million for the Spanish international and Atletico, well aware of such a price tag, are prepared to offer 29-year-old versatile attacker Vitolo as a makeweight in the deal to cope the Gunners asking price for the right-back. (h/t Sun)
Bellerin suffered a serious knee injury against Chelsea in the Premier League last term after playing a key role in the earlier stages of the 2018-19 campaign under Unai Emery.
The 24-year-old made 19 league appearances for the Gunners before being sidelined with a damaged anterior cruciate ligament and he is expected to miss the starting fixtures of the upcoming season as well.
Vitolo, on the other hand, hardly played a significant role for Atletico in the La Liga this past season, with the 29-year-old starting just 5 league games for the Rojoblancos.
The Spaniard has played a bit-part role in the first-team since the start of the 2017-18 season, scoring only once in the process, and it is not difficult to see why Simeone is keen to move him on in order to make way for new arrivals.
Arsenal are cash-strapped in the summer transfer window after missing out on Champions League qualification for the third successive season in a row.
The Gunners are believed to be in the market for reinforcements in multiple positions at the back, having conceded as many as 51 goals in the Premier League last season.
The likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal were slammed repeatedly for their bizarre defensive errors last season and it is a no-brainer that Arsenal are under pressure to make some quality additions to their defensive ranks this summer.
Emery constantly rotated between a back-three and back-four system in the previous campaign to sort out his defensive woes but it became more and more apparent that the manager lacked the personnel to implement either system to good effect.
To put things into perspective, Arsenal currently find themselves in a massive defensive crisis and losing someone like Hector Bellerin could spell disaster, particularly with the likes of Stephan Lichesteiner and Carl Jenkinson also lined up for an exit.
The Gunners look set for an overhaul of their defensive options over the next couple of transfer windows and Bellerin is one player they just cannot afford to lose at this moment, given that the 24-year-old still has big future ahead of him at the Emirates.
Bellerin is expected to play a big role under Emery once he recovers from his injury and it would hardly make any sense for Arsenal to let him depart this summer.
Vitolo’s influence at Atletico has gradually waned over the years, and although he had established himself as one of the stars in the La Liga at Sevilla under Unai Emery earlier in his career, the Gunners should not be tempted to bring him to North London at the cost of their first-choice right-back.
The prospect of reuniting with one of his old players might appeal to Emery but Vitolo’s recent form at the Wanda Metropolitano doesn’t suggest that his arrival could improve Arsenal’s attack significantly.
The 29-year-old looks like someone who is past his prime years and there is every possibility that he might struggle to make much of an impact in the Premier League.
It is true that Arsenal need a new right-sided winger to reduce the dependence on Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ainsley Maitland-Niles but the Gunners would make themselves look quite foolish by sacrificing Bellerin for that purpose.
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Keeping that in mind, Arsenal should turn a blind eye to such an audacious approach from Atletico Madrid and politely decline to do business.