Arsenal Transfers: Why Illarramendi Would Be a Great Summer Buy for Gunners

Shona BlackContributor IIJune 26, 2013

NETANYA, ISRAEL - JUNE 15: Asier Illarramendi (C) of Spain is challenged by Stefan Johansen (L) and Magnus Wolff Eikrem of Norway during the UEFA European U21 Championship Semi Final match between Spain and Norway at Netanya Stadium on June 15, 2013 in Netanya, Israel.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Arsenal's move for striker Gonzalo Higuain may be tediously protracted, but even as it languishes in quasi-official purgatory, according to Dominic Fifield of the Guardian, it encourages supporters to believe this summer will bring the kind of transformative transfer spending many have long craved. 

Who should Arsenal close in on next? They have been linked with Schalke's Greek defender Kyriakos Papadopoulous, via Matt Law of Mirror Football, and according to Lee Bryan of the Daily Mail, a deal is imminent with Auxerre striker Yaya Sanogo. 

Deepening the squad in defence and attack is clearly a priority for Arsenal this summer.

But there is one transfer target who can fulfill a different role, one that has been essentially lacking in Arsenal's recent setup: Asier Illarramendi, a defensive midfielder.

The Real Sociedad midfielder caught attention this summer as a key component of Spain's all-conquering Under-21 side as they swatted away competition to the European championship.

More significantly for Arsenal, the 23-year-old's assured performances with Sociedad last season helped the relatively minor Basque club to an impressive fourth place Primera Liga finish.

The Real cantera product is a defensive midfielder in the mould of Xabi Alonso or Sergio Busquets, making him the perfect partner for his compatriot Mikel Arteta. Illarramendi's more naturally defensive game would free Arteta to make the forward runs he so flourished with at Everton without jeopardizing defensive cover.

While at 5'9", Illarramendi lacks the imposing physique many feel Arsenal need to compete in the Premier League, his superb reading of the game and ball-winning skills more than compensate.

His astute vision and movement both on and off the ball show an unusually precocious talent at his age and suggest a truly special player in the making.

There are questions whether Sociedad would be willing to part with the player, especially as they will be competing in the Champions League. They have Illarramendi contracted until 2018, reportedly with a €30 million release clause, as per Charles Perrin of the Express.

However, it is not uncommon in Spain to use release clause figures merely as starting point in negotiations; Transfermarkt estimates Illarramendi's market value at €12 million.

By comparison, Alonso at the same age was valued at €15 million—allowing for inflation, a considerably higher valuation—and there is every indication that Illarramendi has what it takes to develop to Alonso's prime level or beyond.

If Arsenal could secure Illarramendi for anywhere in the region of €15 to €20 million, it could be considered a fantastic summer signing.