Arsenal have begun to prepare for Bacary Sagna's imminent departure by opening talks with Ligue 1 side Toulouse over a £7m deal for Ivory Coast international Serge Aurier.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has been forced to plan for life without Sagna next season by deadlock in contract talks with the long-serving French defender, who has held firm in his bid for a long-term deal on improved terms as reward for seven seasons of loyal service in North London.
Wenger is desperate for the 31-year-old to stay put but Arsenal chiefs have refused to match those demands, with Goal.com reporting this morning reporting that their attention has instead turned to finding a quality, long-term replacement.
Aurier is thought to fit that bill after extensive scouting this season from the Premier League giants, who believe the 21-year-old has the pace, versatility and technique to make the grade in England.
Toulouse have the full-back under contract until 2018 and hold a strong position in any negotiations over the starlet's future, but Arsenal believe an offer of £7m will be enough to make the youngster their first summer signing.
Wenger has been coy on summer transfer business with the FA Cup final to focus on but is believed to be targeting two signings before the World Cup starts in 30 days, with Aurier a top priority in that regard.
The Gunners boss is ready to show increased faith in current deputy Carl Jenkinson by signing Aurier as direct competition for a starting berth at right-back rather than a proven world-class player in that position, but it remains to be seen if that decision is the right one if the mooted move for Aurier does materialise.
Ligue 1's marathon campaign finally finishes this weekend, giving Arsenal a short window of opportunity to tie up terms before Aurier leaves to represent his country at this summer's South American showpiece, but preliminary talks are well underway.
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