Coach Jose Luis Sierra has strengthened his imprint on fallen Saudi Professional League giants Al Ittihad after surprise one-season deals were completed for familiar faces Luis Jimenez and Emiliano Vecchio.
Clubs in the Kingdom have, to date, been more circumspect in this summer’s transfer window, following 2018’s landmark $173.9 million splurge. This conservative approach continued on Wednesday when the Tigers announced their first foreign additions as they attempt to drastically improve on last term’s lengthy flirtation with relegation.
Vecchio, 30, has joined up with Sierra for the fourth time in his career. The Argentine forward first worked under him in Chile with Union Espanola and Colo-Colo, before briefly combining at Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club in 2018/19 prior to the tactician’s October dismissal.
Experienced fellow Chilean Jimenez, 35, will add some craft alongside resident playmaker – and close friend – Carlos Villanueva. The ex-Inter Milan conductor played for several sides in the Middle East from 2011-18, prior to an enjoyable homecoming at Palestino.
Brazilian forward Romarinho, Morocco internationals Manuel da Costa and Karim El Ahmadi and Serbia centre forward Aleksandar Prijovic currently round out their seven-player non-Saudi quota.
Cape Verde winger Garry Rodrigues is expected to imminently depart for Turkish giants Fenerbahce on loan. He cost €9m in January when purchased from fierce Istanbul neighbours Galatasaray.
The Turkish Super Lig outfit have been linked with Ozil in recent weeks, with the Gunners reportedly keen to offload the 30-year-old from their wage bill.
Ozil, a former Germany international of Turkish descent, struggled to impress new Arsenal head coach Unai Emery last season and often found himself sidelined for the bigger games.
That is despite the fact he signed a new deal in February 2018 making him the highest-paid player in the history of the club.
His wage of £350,000 a week eclipses most of players in the current Arsenal squad and could prove a stumbling block in an attempt to move him on, with injury and illness also ruling him out of a number of games over the last couple of seasons.
A deal with Fenerbahce, whether permanent or on loan, was the latest speculation but the club released a statement on Wednesday announcing their finances meant Ozil was not a target.
“In recent weeks, and especially in the last few days, the necessity of providing information about the claims of Mesut Ozil, which is on the agenda, to clarify the situation has arisen,” it read.
“Mesut Ozil, with his career and stance successfully represents our country abroad, is an important value known with the identity of Fenerbahce.
“However, Fenerbahce does not have an initiative for Mesut Ozil. Under the current economic conditions, such a step is not possible for both parties.
“Our President, Ali Koc, made statements in this context and emphasised that this could not be realised in the short term. We present it to our community and the public.”
Arsenal are set to head to the United States later in the week to begin their pre-season tour.
Newly-appointed technical director Edu will link up with the squad, with new signing Gabriel Martinelli also likely to be making the journey.
And there could be more transfer activity from the club in the coming days, with Saint-Etienne defender William Saliba reportedly close to sealing a move to the Emirates Stadium.
PA understands that the deal for the 18-year-old, reported to be worth £27million, is yet to be completed with Saliba likely to be loaned back to the Ligue 1 side for next season.
Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season? We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.
We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why.
Juventus -> £31m -> Everton
The Toffees hope to finally fill the gap left by Romelu Lukaku and land the impressive Italy teenager on a buy-back deal, according to the Daily Mail.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: This arrangement makes perfect sense for all parties. Kean, 19, would get regular first-team football and build on a promising 2018/19 that contained seven goals in 17 Juve run-outs, plus two strikes in three senior internationals. Everton would embrace a striker of his promise and Juve’s £40.5m clause means that if his stellar progress continues, they’ll be able to bring him back.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Kean’s sights may be set much higher. Tastes of Serie A success and Champions League nights at Juve are alluring. Even with Cristiano Ronaldo present in Turin, he may feel greater first-team chances await under new head coach Maurizio Sarri.
TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 5/10
Southampton -> £18m -> Manchester United
The Red Devils have been given permission to open talks with the ex-Juve battler, according to The Times.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: A gap is present in the United midfield after Ander Herrera defected to Paris Saint-Germain and it appears that the Gabon international has emerged as a favoured option to fill it. The Saints are also happy to sell after a failure to gel with manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. Lemina’s past with Paul Pogba at Juve – if the France superstar stays – is another bonus.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Arsenal and Leicester are also rumoured to have registered interest in the 25-year-old, meaning United have work to do. The Red Devils’s financial might means that other options will always exist. Furthermore, they’ve targeted young, British talent under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer throughout this transfer window.
TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 7/10
Real Madrid -> £18m -> Roma
The Serie A side and Diaz’s agents are poised to hold a second meeting to ascertain the feasibility of recruiting him, according to gianlucadimarzio.com.
WHY IT WILL HAPPEN: Roma must renovate their squad after last term’s disappointing sixth-placed finish, plus the hiring of a new sporting director and head coach in Gianluca Petrachi and Paulo Fonseca. Diaz, 25, is available for a reasonable price as Madrid look to build up funds. With fellow striker Edin Dzeko consistently linked to Inter Milan, change could be afoot.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: The real object of Roma’s desire is said to be fellow Madrid alumnus Gonzalo Higuain. They will prioritise this expensive operation ahead of Diaz. Not that there isn’t competition for the Dominican Republic international – Champions League finalists Tottenham Hotspur view him as a potential back-up to Harry Kane.
TRANSFER PREDICTOR: 6/10