Real Madrid have reportedly offered Real Sociedad the chance to take Asier Illarremendi on loan in a deal that would see Antoine Griezmann switch to the Bernabeu, damaging Arsenal's hopes of signing the sprightly French forward.
Colin Harvey of the Daily Star reports a situation that could force the Gunners into looking elsewhere during the summer:
Sociedad are facing something of an exodus as Claudio Bravo prepares to join Barcelona, Carlos Vela looks set for the Emirates and Griezmann potentially on the way out as well.
This means that Real's offer of Illarramendi on loan for a couple of season (sic) would be very appealing to the La Liga side as they attempt to push on next term.
Tutto Mercato recently suggested Paris Saint-Germain will look to bring Griezmann to Ligue 1 by matching his buyout clause of £26 million, reported via Alex Richards of the Mirror. Harvey's report indicates Arsenal were planning an £18 million offer for the 23-year-old, a figure that appears to fall well short of what Sociedad could receive.
Real's decision to offer Illarramendi plus cash is certainly a smart move. The central midfielder only left Sociedad last summer, but after failing to hold down a regular starting place in Los Blancos' midfield, may need another couple of years' development before reaching his potential in the Spanish capital.
Indeed, Xabi Alonso will be heading toward 35 years old in two years' time, allowing Illarramendi to slot into Real's team as a natural replacement.
The return of a fan favourite will certainly help offset Sociedad's potential losses. Griezmann netted a terrific haul of 16 goals in 35 appearances throughout the recently finished campaign, per WhoScored.com, while Claudio Bravo and Carlos Vela have also consistently impressed. Illarramendi's return could hush the sense of panic, as the battling midfielder naturally asserts his control over the Basque side's play.
While Bravo's move to Barcelona edges closer, per Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC, Vela has suggested he isn't looking to leave. A glamour return to Arsenal is said to be waiting, although it appears unwanted by the Mexican, reported during an interview with beINsports and translated by Inside Spanish Football:
I never felt comfortable in London and I never enjoyed it. However, when I got to Donostia (San Sebastian) I found a place where I was very happy, where I’m enjoying myself every day.
The English game is very straightforward. Here, the difference is that there are more touches of the ball and the benefits me.
Sociedad may have to get used to the idea of seeing key players leave, especially as the club failed to qualify for European football next season. Griezmann's potential move to Real Madrid could eventually see Angel Di Maria deemed surplus to requirements, a player Arsenal are also linked with, per Paul Collins of the Daily Mail.
It seems the Gunners will certainly have to up the value of their alleged bid if Griezmann is to become an Emirates star. The versatile forward's price will rocket after he appears at the World Cup with France, an occurrence that is likely to see more suitors step forward for his signature.
The promise of Illarramendi could swing such a deal in Real's favour, an unsurprising development along Florentino Perez's quest to continue signing Europe's premier talent.