Arsenal will demand at least £15 million from La Liga champions Atletico Madrid for midfielder Santi Cazorla, who could return to Spain this summer. Atletico head coach Diego Simeone is a keen admirer of the technically-gifted 29-year-old - and believes Arsene Wenger could be talked into selling him.
This is according to the Daily Mail, who claim that the arrival of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona could result in Cazorla losing his first-team spot next season.
Stiff competition for places
Cazorla is a versatile player who has been deployed in a variety of positions since arriving at the Emirates Stadium from Malaga two summers ago. However, the Spain international’s playing time could be significantly reduced following the Gunners’ £32 million acquisition of Chile international Sanchez.
Wenger must determine whether or not there is room for Cazorla in his first-choice starting line-up, but the veteran French coach possesses one of the most star-studded squads in the Premier League and may struggle to guarantee the player regular first-team football from the start of the 2014/15 campaign.
As well as Sanchez and Cazorla, Wenger must also find places for Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Lukas Podolski.
Reports: Cazorla wants to leave Arsenal
Last month it was reported that Cazorla would be happy to leave Arsenal for Atletico Madrid, who secured their first league title since 1996 in dramatic fashion on the final day of last season.
These reports will inevitably become more widespread if Cazorla finds himself on the subs’ bench during the opening weeks of the new campaign. The summer transfer window is open until September 2 - and Simeone will continue his pursuit of the diminutive playmaker for as long as it takes to secure his signature.
Would Arsenal miss Cazorla?
Few players in world football are as assured in possession - particularly in tight spaces - than the two-footed Cazorla, who has scored 16 goals in 69 Premier League appearances for the Gunners.
But Arsenal would not only miss his ability on the pitch. It’s widely acknowledged that Cazorla is one of the popular players in the Arsenal dressing room thanks to his warm personality and happy-go-lucky nature. Rarely is the cheerful Spaniard ever spotted without a beaming smile on his face.
Wenger, therefore, knows that selling Cazorla would mean Arsenal lose a world-class footballer and a man capable of keeping morale high at the Emirates Stadium.
Watch: Cazorla's best moments of 2013/14
Why Atletico need Cazorla
Atletico regard Cazorla as a like-for-like replacement for Diego Ribas, who joined Turkish giants Fenerbahce this summer.
Simeone’s side are in a period of transition after losing several of their most revered stars - including Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois, who are all now with Chelsea - but have brought in the likes of Miguel Angel Moya, Guilherme Siqueira and Mario Mandzukic.
The recent signings made by both Real Madrid and Barcelona suggest it will be extremely difficult for Atletico to successfully defend their La Liga crown - but the acquisition of former Villarreal and Malaga ace Cazorla would give them a fighting chance.