Arsenal join the race to sign Barcelona starlet

FC Barcelona

Theo Walcott’s refusal to sign a new contract with Arsenal will likely see him sold in January to the highest bidder, leaving Arsenal with tricky little gap to fill and they’ll have to move at Walcott-pace to replace him.

Meanwhile, almost 1,000 miles away a similar saga unfolds in Barcelona. Spanish newspaper El Mundo has reported winger-slash-inside forward Cristian Tello is refusing to sign a new contract at the Nou Camp.

The 21-year-old has just started to make his breakthrough in to the first team under Tito Vilanova. His current deal expires this summer and, due to a discrepancy over a minimum fee release clause in his proposed new contract, Barcelona are preparing to let him go in January for bargain price of £8 million.

Liverpool were the first club to start sniffing around the Spanish U23 international but their bid could well be hijacked by Arsenal who can offer the young talent Champion’s League football.

However, whilst Barcelona and the Gunners have a transfer history in high-profile exchanges like Cesc Fabregas who moved twice in either direction, Alex Song, Aleksander Hleb, and, of course, Thierry Henry, the Gunners have preferred to catch players before they make the step up to the Barca first team.

Such was the case with recent Arsenal signings, the lesser known Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral – along with Fabregas who was just 16 years of age when he made the move.

But, with the likelihood increasing day by day that Walcott will depart in January, Arsene Wenger needs to find an adequate replacement that can fit in to his system and style of play without too much adaptation. He also needs to find a player of equivalent value and, in that respect; it’s slim pickings for the Frenchman.

Stars like Jesus Navas, and Hatem Ben Arfa who have been suggested as possible replacements would likely sell for £20 million, and £15 million respectively, when Walcott will be sold for around £10 million because potential buyers already know the Gunners are forced to sell or lose him for free.

Tello would be more likely to come to the Emirates than his teammate Alexis Sanchez who has been linked with moves to both Arsenal and North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur – primarily because Alexis is ahead of Tello in the Barca pecking order.

Tello has performed well when he’s played but is predominantly utilized as substitute – he’s managed to net 2 goals in just 7 league appearances as a wide-man.

image: © mariosp

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