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Arsenal set to beat Spurs in race for teenage centre-back

The Gunners are hopeful they have seen off Tottenham’s interest in William Saliba.

William Saliba (file pic).
William Saliba (file pic).

ARSENAL ARE HOPEFUL they have seen off Tottenham in the race for William Saliba.

The 18-year-old centre-back has been a priority target for the Gunners this summer and they thought they had landed the teenager when a £27 million (€29.9m) deal was agreed with Saint-Etienne last week.

But just as the transfer was in the process of being finalised, Tottenham made a late move for the defender, which threw his potential move to the Emirates into doubt.

Spurs’ bid was for the same amount, but it included a payment structure and add-ons that were more appealing to the Ligue 1 outfit.

Saint-Etienne then requested that Arsenal matched the offer, which they did — and the Gunners are now on the verge of sealing a deal for the talented Frenchmen.

Saliba had already agreed a five-year contract at the Emirates and will spend the first year of that back on loan with Saint-Etienne for the 2019/20 campaign.

Arsenal will not have to pay much of the transfer fee in the initial down payment, so the deal will not have much of an impact on Unai Emery’s transfer budget this summer.

Saliba’s arrival will be warmly welcomed at the Emirates, with the club’s scouting network having identified the centre-back as a priority target having watched him extensively during the second half of last season.

And the potential deal comes as Arsenal are also close to landing Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid.

The Gunners are in advanced talks with the Spanish giants over a loan move for the 22-year-old attacking midfielder.

Madrid have yet to fully agree to the move, but it is believed manager Zinedine Zidane will not prevent the Spain international from leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

Should Zidane give the green light for Ceballos to complete the transfer, it should be finalised relatively quickly, with Arsenal keen to wrap up a deal.

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The potential move coincides with comments from Arsenal director Josh Kroenke — the son of owner Stan Kroenke — telling fans to be excited about what could come before the close of the transfer window next month.

“I would say ‘be excited’,” Kroenke told Arsenal.com. “There are a few things that I know our group are working on, and a few things we hopefully have on the doorstep. 

Nothing is ever a done deal until it’s a done deal, obviously, but we know we have key areas we want to address in our squad, both now and in the future. 

“Our entire football operations staff have a great grasp on that and I’ve encouraged them to be as expressive as possible.”

Meanwhile, Unai Emery has stated that he is hoping to see three of four new faces arrive before the transfer window closes on August 8.

The Spaniard, who saw his side kick-off their pre-season tour to the United States with a 3-0 win against Colorado Rapids, said: “We need players with big performances.

“Our target is to get three or four players who really improve our squad now. We are being very, very demanding and first speaking about the possibility to sign very expensive players. 

“The first player in our list is our first target, if we cannot achieve that [we'll go for] the second. We  think they’re going to improve our squad.”

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