Arsenal are considering a big-money move for Asier Illarramendi after it emerged the Real Madrid midfielder is free to leave the Santiago Bernabeu this summer.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has been tracking the 25-year-old, and despite facing competition from Premier League rivals Liverpool is favourite to secure the player's signature.
Illarramendi has struggled to cement his place in Carlo Ancelotti's team and has fallen further down the pecking order this season following the arrival of both Toni Kroos and Lucas Silva.
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Los Blancos paid Real Sociedad £34 million for the defensive midfielder's services in the summer of 2013, but are ready to cash-in for over £5 million less after slapping a £28.8 million price-tag on Illarramendi's head, despite the fact he still has over fours years to run on his contract.
Brendan Rodgers is on the lookout for a replacement for soon-to-be-departing Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, and the former Spain U23 international could be the perfect acquisition to fill that void at Anfield next season.
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However, the Reds are currently behind Arsenal in the race to lure the Real Madrid misfit to England, with Champions League participation likely to be high on Illarramendi's agenda when considering his next club.
Wenger's men are in a much stronger position than Liverpool when it comes to promising qualification for Europe's elite club competition, with the Gunners in second place in the table and nine points better off than the Merseyside outfit.
The recent rise to prominence of Francis Coquelin in that deep-lying midfielder role at the Emirates has meant that Arsenal are not in as desperate need for a reinforcement in that position, but could still move for Illarramendi at the end of the season.
Athletic Bilbao were unsuccessful in their attempt to sign the player in the January transfer window, though. The Daily Mirror reported in February that they offered a significantly smaller sum of around £15 million which was swiftly rejected by the Spanish giants.
Arsenal fans: Do you think Asier Illarramendi would be a good signing this summer? Or do you think £28.8m is too much to pay now that Coquelin is thriving in Arsene Wenger's first-team? Have your say below…
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