AS Roma defender Kostas Manolas has confirmed that he could have joined Arsenal this summer, to pile a fresh helping of misery on Arsene Wenger’s fortunes with regards to his defensive line.
In an interview with Italian publication Il Tempo the highly-rated Greek centre-back, who moved to the Stadio Olimpico this summer for a fee of around £12 million, revealed that he had the chance to play for both Arsenal and Serie A champions Juventus on the back of an impressive campaign with Olympiacos.
Over the course of the summer months Manolas was heavily linked with a switch to the Emirates Stadium and, following the departure of then-club captain Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona, it looked as though the deal would be a formality given his relatively low valuation.
However, though Wenger moved to fill the void to some degree with the acquisition of youngster Calum Chambers, he refused to play ball with Olympiacos’ asking price of £12 million, instead resolving to offer just £8 million.
As such a move never came close to materialising, with Roma taking advantage and replacing the outgoing Mehdi Benatia - who joined Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich. To put the notion that things could have been different beyond all doubt, Manolas has confirmed the rumours.
"It's the truth, Juventus sought me out after the World Cup. I could also end up at Arsenal, but I never went to London as it was said. Now for me there is only the Roma. And I'm very happy to have come here," the 23-year-old said.
Naturally Wenger will now be kicking himself for not having offered that extra £4 million, as injuries have left him thin at the back. The Gunners’ boss’s confirmation that Laurent Koscielny’s dogged Achilles problem will need plenty of time to properly heal means that only Per Mertesacker is set to be regularly available as a first-choice centre-half.
Chambers, though having performed above expectations thus far, isn’t likely to be relied upon in the heart of the defence for the entirety of the season, leaving Wenger to juggle his options - as was proven by the need to start usual left-back Nacho Monreal alongside Mertesacker against Hull City at the weekend.
Options moving forward
This leaves Wenger with something of a conundrum; does he spend money in the winter transfer window or attempt to hold out until next summer? Fans would of course like to see the former as the chosen route, with the likes of Mats Hummels and the reinvigorated Ron Vlaar finding themselves named in connection with Arsenal moves in the near future.
As for Manolas he’s sure to be happy with his ultimate choice to move to Roma. Rudi Garcia’s side may have tasted bitter defeat to Juventus thanks to a late winner from Leonardo Bonucci but they remain very much in contention for the Serie A title, having amassed 18 points from seven games.
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