Arsenal Transfer News: Latest on Odion Ighalo, Aymeric Laporte Rumours

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2016

Watford's Odion Ighalo celebrates scoring his side's third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road stadium in Watford, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Watford ace Odion Ighalo has revealed he would only leave the Hornets for Manchester United, amid rumours Arsenal are also eyeing the star striker.

According to the Daily Star's Alex Harris, both the Red Devils and Gunners are interested in the prolific scorer, but per Tony Little of the Sun, the Nigerian has his heart set on the Theatre of Dreams:

There has been speculation from Spain and Italy but I’ve played there and now want to play in England.

I don’t think I will be moving but I’m not sure I’d say no if United called.

They were my team growing up. I loved watching Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke on TV.

They were my idols and playing at Old Trafford has always been a dream.

The 26-year-old has been one of the breakout performers of the 2015-16 Premier League season, scoring 14 goals in 25 appearances for Watford, per He and Troy Deeney form one of the top attacking partnerships in England and have played a massive role in the club's strong campaign.

Per FATV, Ighalo's rise has been steady, as his scoring touch was on display in the 2014-15 season as well:

Even in that interview, Ighalo can't help but reference Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, making it abundantly clear how badly he wants to emulate the duo. It's hardly a surprise to hear him openly dreaming of a move to Old Trafford.

Arsenal have struggled putting the ball in the net in 2016, as Theo Walcott has been woefully out of form and Olivier Giroud has failed to consistently produce. The latter remains one of the best strikers in the Premier League, but he's a very form-dependent player who can go weeks without scoring.

It would be a dream to have a player like Ighalo available to use in one of those cases, although one has to wonder whether manager Arsene Wenger wouldn't rather spend his cash on a clear upgrade, rather than a talented forward who would at best battle for the starting position.

Regardless, it seems the Nigeria international has little interest in a move to the capital and will instead work on earning a move to Manchester or stay with his current club. He's doing just fine for himself with Watford right now, so a transfer may not be on the horizon yet.


Aymeric Laporte Committed to Athletic Bilbao

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

French defender Aymeric Laporte is one of the top young players at his position in Europe and one of the most sought-after transfer targets of the moment, but the Basque star has no intention of leaving Athletic Bilbao.

A host of Premier League clubs, including Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea, tried to bring him to England during the summer, per Mundo Deportivo (h/t Joe Short of the Daily Express), but the 21-year-old claims even UEFA Champions League holders Barcelona wouldn't be able to pry him away from Bilbao.

Speaking to Telefoot (h/t Sport), he said: “FC Barcelona is one of the most important clubs in the world, but I would reject an offer from them. They have not talked to me to present an offer, not this season or last, but it wouldn't interest me. All the future is ahead, playing these years at Athletic.”

Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

The centre-back, who can also play as a full-back if needed, has been one of the top young prospects in La Liga for years now and has gradually undergone an impressive transformation in the past couple of seasons.

Where he once stood out for his raw power and old-school approach to defending, he has become far more comfortable on the ball in the last 12 months, developing into an all-round talent who would fit just about any system. Here's a look at some of his highlights:

His raw strength and tackling ability remain his biggest assets, but he also displays excellent vision and positioning to go with the ability to get involved in the passing game.

With a buyout clause of £36 million, per Short, Laporte would be an expensive option to add, but given his age, experience and tremendous potential, such a fee seems reasonable. Making a deal happen won't be as simple as triggering the clause, however.

Laporte seems unwilling to leave the Basque Country at this time, and given Athletic's Cantera policy of only fielding Basque players, the club will do everything possible to keep their star from leaving, per the Daily Telegraph's Tony Francis.