Lyon sporting director Juninho has confirmed he’s held talks with Arsenal over a possible move for Houssem Aouar – and claims the midfielder is ‘really appreciated’ by Mikel Arteta.
Aouar is regarded as one of the most exciting young players in France and has emerged as a serious target for the Gunners after starring on Lyon’s path to the Champions League semi-finals last term.
The north London giants have strengthened in central defence and in attack this summer after wrapping up deals for Brazilian duo Gabriel and Willian and Arteta has now set his sights on bolstering his options in the middle of the park for the new season.
Arsenal and Arteta are prepared to let Matteo Guendouzi leave after a series of behavioural issues across his two-year stay at the Emirates and the Frenchman was offered to Lyon in a potential player-plus-cash deal for his fellow countryman.
But according to Lyon chief Juninho, Guendouzi is the ‘wrong profile’ for the club and Arsenal’s proposal was swiftly rejected. ‘I get on very well with Edu (Arsenal technical director), we spoke on the phone,’ Lyon chief Juninho told French outlet RMC Sport.
‘Aouar is really appreciated by Mikel Arteta. ‘Guendouzi was discussed during the call, he is a great player, but he is the wrong profile.
‘We are not interested in that at all, we cut the conversation.’
On Aouar being linked with Juventus and Manchester City, Juninho responded: ‘I think contacts are happening between agents, not directly with me.’
Lyon have set a £45m asking price for Aouar and would prefer an up front offer for their prized possession, which could get in the way of an agreement with Arsenal this summer.
Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand raved about Aouar before Lyon’s 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals and compared the midfielder to ex-Arsenal star Samir Nasri.
‘He provides the creativity in this team,’ Ferdinand said on BT Sport. ‘A kid so young but he’s relied upon so much. That shows the belief they’ve got in him and the belief he has in himself.
‘You see his imagination and the pictures he creates and sees on the pitch, the vision and the tactical awareness.
‘The confidence is what exudes out of this boy.
‘He’s a fabulous player to watch. He drives past people and then it’s about decision-making and the timing of the pass.
He has it all. ‘He reminds me of Samir Nasri at times. He’s someone who can be a top player at one of the top clubs in Europe.’