Arsenal could reportedly be beaten by Bayern Munich to the signing of Thomas Lemar, with the Bundesliga giants said to be considering bidding for the AS Monaco winger during the January transfer window.
Bayern are already running the rule over Lemar, according to German publication Kicker (h/t TalkSport.com): "The German champions are reportedly scouting the 21-year-old and could move for him if the price is right. Lemar, however, will not come cheap and it could take as much as £100 million to get him out of Monaco."
Die Roten are said to be considering making an offer in the winter window, per the reports.
Interest from Bayern would be bad news for the Gunners who have long held an interest in the precocious France international. Arsenal were especially keen on the 21-year-old in the summer.
Putting the Gunners' interest in Lemar into context, Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev recently admitted to Bryan Swanson of Sky Sports News, "it was Arsenal that was really close to finalising the deal."
Vasilyev also hinted during the interview Lemar could get his move next summer: "Definitely next summer will be something to look at, although you know in football there are no guarantees."
However, Vasilyev did appear to rule out Lemar being offloaded sooner: "January, in football, never say never, but this is not what we're thinking of, this is really not in our plans."
The latter quote should be music to the ears of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who pursued Lemar doggedly in recent months. It was an ultimately fruitless pursuit, despite Wenger and the Gunners making a last-ditch bid worth £92 million on deadline day of the summer window.
Arsenal couldn't get the deal done in time amid doubts regarding the immediate future of star player Alexis Sanchez. The Chile international forward's future is still in doubt, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly keen to see if the Gunners will cash in during January on the player whose contract expires in 2018, per Paul Hetherington of the Daily Star.
Lemar is still an ideal potential replacement for Sanchez or fellow contract rebel Mesut Ozil. The latter is a player Wenger could reportedly consider selling in January, according to John Cross of the Daily Mirror.
Lemar's ability to play on either flank, as well as operate behind a striker, would make him an ideal fit for Wenger's style of play. So would the attacking midfielder's quality technique, artful passing and cerebral movement off the ball.
Beating the competition to Lemar would represent a coup for Arsenal on many levels. First, it would show the club still has the financial resources, and more importantly, the willingness to use them, to attract star players with their best years still ahead of them.
Signing Lemar would also soften the blow of losing either one or both of Ozil and Sanchez. His presence would keep the creative department of Wenger's squad strong, as Lemar would join up with Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi.
Yet it's easy to believe Arsenal will have to wait until next summer to make any deal happen. Bayern making a move in January would be a major blow, since the German club's place as a UEFA Champions League regular may be more appealing to Lemar as the Gunners battle to get back into Europe's premier club competition next season.