As Aaron Ramsey becomes the latest star to leave Arsenal, the search for his replacement intensifies.
The Wales international has signed a pre-contract agreement with Italian giants Juventus after the Gunners called off talks to keep him on an improved contract.
Finding a new midfielder with similar experience and quality as Ramsey will not come easy, but there are early signs that Ever Banega of Sevilla is going to be the top target in the next transfer window.
Bleacher Report sources indicated that while the club has been looking into Banega's situation since last summer, there is increased belief that he is the man they need to arrow in on over the coming months.
So would he fit the bill? His stats are impressive—he's the created the sixth-most chances in La Liga this season, according to bein Sports—and the topic was discussed on the latest episode of the B/R Football Ranks podcast, with analyst Sam Tighe giving his view on how the Argentina international compares to Ramsey.
"Banega is one of the better creative midfielders in Europe," Tighe said. "He has history with Unai Emery, having played under him at Sevilla, and he shone at the World Cup—he was the one Argentina midfielder who showed a bit of creative nous and ability to get his foot on the ball, head up and pick out passes.
"He often comes out high on the key pass charts because he does have that vision. He's just not a long-term strategy because he's getting on a bit."
Banega turns 31 in June, and that is interesting given Arsenal have had a tendency to steer clear of players of such age in the past. One key element of their signing strategy used to be that the player would have a good sell-on fee, but under Emery, that is no longer such an issue.
Sources told B/R there is increased urgency from figures within the club to start delivering success, and with that in mind, board members are showing a willingness to be more short-sighted when it comes to transfers.
As such, Banega's age is not seen as a barrier—but the finances of the deal are going to have to suit them.
"His termination clause is currently €20 million," explains Alejandro Saez, who covers Sevilla for Estadio Deportivo. "There was a negotiation with the club for an improvement of his contract too. But they have not reached an agreement on that."
People around the Spanish club believe he can be convinced to stay, and while Arsenal are not worried about the transfer fee—they are going to have around £45 million to spend—they are likely to make their initial offer below that figure to test the water.
"They will have to pay the €20 million (£17.6 million) buyout clause," Saez insists. "I guess that's the problem. Sevilla will not facilitate his departure.
Banega, Xhaka, Torreira is a very good midfield. Banega's passing range would help our creativity as well as making the midfield very well balanced. An absolute bastard in the middle. He won't stick around for long, but he's a good short term option. Good move if it pans out https://t.co/WAWAaSCUpm
"I don't know what the player's real interest is right now. I do know that he and his family are very happy in Seville and that they came from Milan losing money.
"I also know that last summer, before he had a new agent, all the intermediaries that were approaching said that they were not leaving unless they came with a €7 million (£6.2 million) net contract per season."
Arsenal are going to work hard to cut their wage bill this summer because past agreements, particularly Mesut Ozil's £350,000-per-week deal, have left them at breaking point.
Ramsey's exit, along with Petr Cech's, will help. But two or three other first-teamers are likely to move on as well.
Sources are convinced Arsenal will press ahead with the move for Banega and that they would be able to offer the £120,000 per week he wants if their other plans go well. They will also continue to pursue Christopher Nkunku of Paris Saint-Germain.
Colin Millar is a Spanish football journalist who is an expert on the goings on in Andalucia, and he believes the addition of Banega would be a great capture.
"The most interesting thing is that a deal would show Arsenal's trust in Emery and in turn, Emery's trust in Banega," he told B/R. "This is someone who played under him at two different clubs and who, especially at Sevilla, excelled. He is someone who can control a game and is technically fantastic. He can orchestrate the play from deep.
"He would have less time on the ball in England but that's not to say he couldn't fit a style. This is a player who would need to make small adaptations to his game but would represent an excellent signing."
If they can agree to the financial elements across the board, it could well be that they do land their key target.
Saez concludes: "In my opinion, if Arsenal—with Unai Emery—are really able to offer a contract of three years, plus the option of another, at the rate of €7 million net per season, Banega will go to Arsenal."