Arsenal playmaker Santi Cazorla may accept a pay cut in order to join Atletico Madrid this summer. Reports suggest the Spain international is keen to return to his home country after two years with the Gunners - although his wage demands remain a stumbling block for now.
Spanish newspaper AS claim Atletico are working hard to put a deal in place to secure the services of Cazorla, who wants to sign for the recently-crowned La Liga champions. But the 29-year-old only signed a new long-term deal with the north London outfit in March, and last season's Champions League finalists are unable to match the €5 million-a-season package he currently receives at the Emirates Stadium.
However, Atletico hope that €22 million-rated Cazorla will be tempted to take a slight pay cut in order to complete a move to the Vicente Calderon, with the option to increase his salary at the end of every season. Cazorla would also be offered a lengthy deal by Atletico in a further bid to convince him to come to the Spanish capital.
Atletico freed up a substantial amount of money by offloading former Barcelona forward David Villa this summer, but a significant chunk of that cash - believed to be around €6 million-a-season - has been put towards improving the contract of 22-year-old Spain international Koke, who has made it clear he wants to stay with the club despite being linked with moves to Barcelona and Chelsea.
Even though Koke is staying put, Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone has identified Cazorla as the ideal summer signing following the departure of Brazilian midfielder Diego Ribas. The surprise La Liga champions have already brought goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya and left-back Guilherme Siqueira in as replacements for Thibaut Courtois and Filipe Luis, who are bound for Chelsea, along with striker Diego Costa.
Cazorla, who has scored 19 goals in 95 appearances for Arsenal, was a star in La Liga with Villarreal, Recreativo and Malaga. The two-footed Spaniard was linked with a move to Real Madrid before he left Spain for Arsenal, but a transfer failed to materialise.
One of the most universally-popular characters in the game, Cazorla is a fan favourite at the Emirates Stadium, and further enhanced his reputation in the eyes of the Gunners faithful by scoring a superb free-kick in last month's FA Cup final victory over Hull City.
And after rejecting the chance to re-sign Cesc Fabregas, who completed a move to Chelsea last week, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will be determined not to keep the gifted Cazorla at the club and away from the clutches of Atletico Madrid.