Arsenal have stepped up their interest in Anderlecht defender Cheikhou Kouyate by holding talks with the player's agent over the last 48 hours with a view to a cut-price summer switch, but only if the Gunners can hold off interest from four other Premier League clubs.
Kouyate has been watched by scouts from Arsenal, West Ham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Southampton already this season, with the Gunners following up that interest by holding talks with the centre-back's representative Saffet Balkan in Belgium.
Balkan is quoted by the Daily Express as confirming that both Arsenal and West Ham have been in touch to see if the 24-year-old is ready to make the step up to Premier League football, although it does sound like a clear case of hedging his bets as perennial Champions League contenders CSKA Moscow and Galtasaray are also mentioned.
He told Turkish-football.com: "I have met representatives from Arsenal and West Ham over Kouyate in Belgium. We are currently in talks.
"I will also meet with representatives from Galatasaray and CSKA in Istanbul later today to discuss an offer for Kouyate."
The Gunners have been linked with a whole host of versatile defensive options over the last few months, including Marseille defender Nicolas N'Koulou and Toulouse full-back Serge Aurier, thanks to the continued uncertainty over Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen's futures.
Sagna is out of contract this summer and looks almost certain to move on in search of a fresh challenge after Saturday's FA Cup final, while Vermaelen has been a peripheral figure over the course of the campaign and could leave to find regular first-team football elsewhere if the right offer materialises.
Liverpool meanwhile are also on the lookout for quality cover in defence, the one area that undermined a tremendous campaign that saw the Reds come within a whisker of their first domestic title since 1990.
Neither side has yet registered a concrete offer with Kouyate's club Anderlecht though, preferring to play the long game and scour the market before committing to a move for one of the continent's most powerful, promising defenders.
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