It appears to be a two-horse race between Manchester United and Chelsea for Southampton left-back Luke Shaw - but Arsenal should come in and pip both of the Premier League giants to the England international’s signature.
There’s no doubt that the 18-year-old is on course to become one of Europe’s very best defenders. Shaw burst onto the scene at the tender age of 17 last season and didn’t look remotely fazed in England’s top-flight; and now he’s already one of the Premier League’s top full-backs after less than two seasons as a pro.
It’s no surprise that United and Chelsea are battling for his signature, but it is confusing why Arsenal - as far as we’re aware - have decided against the entering the race. While Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal are decent left-backs, they’re not a patch on what Shaw will eventually become.
The teenager’s colleague - at both club and international level - Adam Lallana believes Shaw could even reach the heights scaled by Gareth Bale, the most expensive player in football history, if he continues improving at his current rate. And where better for the young defender to develop that under the management of Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger’s ability to get the best out of young players is no secret. No doubt Shaw would have looked at how the Frenchman has successfully developed the careers of former Southampton prodigies Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and, like the rest of us, been hugely impressed.
Shaw could become the next ex-Saints starlet to flourish with the north London outfit. However, this would require Wenger taking the difficult decision to effectively give up on Gibbs, who has done nothing wrong but simply isn’t going to become the world-class full-back that Shaw inevitably will.
That England boss Roy Hodgson already rates 18-year-old Shaw as a better option than Gibbs, a player six years older and considerably more experienced, speaks volumes - and Wenger shouldn’t allow the club to miss out one a future superstar for sentimental reasons.
As well as the fact that Wenger has a proven track record for improving the careers of talented youngsters, Shaw would also surely be tempted to select Arsenal over Chelsea or Manchester United because he knows he’ll get opportunities and won’t be left wasting valuable time of his formative years on the substitutes’ bench.
While it’s common knowledge that Shaw is a big Chelsea fan, joining the Blues purely on the basis of that reason would be foolish. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has made it clear how much he admires Cesar Azpilicueta, while the Portuguese coach has never been a huge fan of younger players, unlike Wenger, as proved this season with Romelu Lukaku.
Meanwhile, the chance to join Manchester United would no doubt tempt any gifted youngster. However, is it really the best time to join the Red Devils? And will working under David Moyes hinder his long-term development more than working under the shrewd Arsenal manager?
Part of Shaw must be hoping that Arsenal join the race this summer. Although he is perfectly happy at Southampton, there’s no doubt that the left-back is destined for bigger and better things.
And the £30m-rated starlet could reach the very top if the Gunners realise what’s good for them this summer.
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