Jamie Vardy won’t confirm whether he will leave Leicester City for Arsenal until after the European Championship, but his decision is “80 per cent” made up.
That’s according to the Evening Standard’s James Olley, who says sources have told him that the forward is leaning towards staying at the King Power Stadium after speaking with England teammates.
The news will come as a blow to the Gunners, and not simply because they will be missing out on a striker who scored 24 Premier League goals last season.
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Vardy choosing to stay at Leicester proves not just how far the Foxes have come, but that Arsenal genuinely struggle to attract Europe’s best players.
If Arsenal can’t draw Vardy, how on earth do they expect to compete with their rivals for the likes of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic?
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According to Olley, the 29-year-old has doubts that he would be a first-team regular at the Emirates, with Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck both competing to be Arsenal’s lone striker.
He could therefore snub their offer of £120,000-a-week and accept a deal with Leicester worth £100,000-per-week.
Arsenal triggered Vardy’s £20 million release clause late last week but couldn’t complete the deal before he set off for Euro 2016 with England. Arsene Wenger can do little now but to wait until Vardy returns from France.
Piers Morgan, Arsenal’s biggest cheerleader but a noted critic of Wenger, thinks Olley’s report shows just how much the Frenchman’s reputation has diminished.
Yet it only seems right that the stars who delivered an unlikely Premier League trophy last month lead the Foxes in next season’s Champions League.
And if Vardy chooses to stay, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante, both of whom have been linked with moves, may also decide to continue to be a part of Leicester’s fairytale story.
Vardy’s choice will most likely have an impact on Theo Walcott’s future. The 27-year-old is reportedly frustrated by a lack of first-team appearances - he started only 15 league games this season - and has attracted interest from West Ham, but it’s difficult to imagine Wenger allowing him to leave if Vardy doesn’t sign.
Even if the Leicester man arrives, the majority of Arsenal fans will still hope the club brings in another forward. An attacking trio of Giroud, Welbeck and Vardy is good but not great, and supporters are growing restless at Wenger’s refusal to really hunt a top striker.
They’ve been linked with Juventus striker Alvaro Morata and the Spaniard’s arrival would ease the pressure on Wenger.
Real Madrid have an option to buy the 23-year-old, who they sold to Juve in 2014, back, and it is believed they will then sell to the highest bidder.
Chelsea and Manchester United are expected to compete for his signature, Olley claims.