Arsenal transfer focus – Gunners look to Afellay for injection of creativity

Arsenal’s attempts to recruit for the coming season are continuing despite being overshadowed by the Robin van Persie transfer saga. The Gunners have been linked with a host of top continental players over the last few days but one name continues to pop up – that of Barcelona’s creative midfielder Ibrahim Afellay.

Afellay has been told by new Barcelona head coach Tito Villanova that he is no longer required at the Camp Nou – a decision which has put several European clubs including Liverpool and Inter Milan, as well as the Gunners, on high alert.

The Dutchman has been touted by many as a replacement for Andrei Arshavin who is expected to leave the Emirates Stadium after three years at the club. Able to operate on either wing, as well as in the hole behind the strikers, the 26-year-old could prove a shrewd purchase should Arsene Wenger decide to make a move.

Indeed his style of play is similar to that of former Gunner Samir Nasri, a player who Arsenal have arguably failed to replace since his big money move to Manchester City last summer.

Afellay was talismanic for PSV Eindhoven in the middle part of the last decade as he helped them to four consecutive Eredivisie titles between 2004 and 2008. Two more seasons of impressive performances caught the eye of the Catalan giants who saw Afellay as an ideal candidate for their distinctive style of attacking football and creative flair.

He made 29 appearances in his first season in La Liga but his second campaign was blighted by injury after suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage. He returned in time for Euro 2012 and started all three group games as the Netherlands crashed out at the first stage.

In addition to Afellay, who according to the Daily Express could be available for £6m, Arsenal have also been linked with Spanish midfielder Santiago Cazorla. He would be much more expensive than Afellay and is valued by his club, Malaga, at around £15m, as reported by Talksport.

Of course, any potential incomings will be affected by the van Persie situation. According to the Daily Mirror, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is reportedly extremely confident that his club will sign Afellay’s compatriot. The fee is believed to be in the region of £20m should a deal go through but Manchester City also remain extremely keen on securing his signature.

In what could be considered a surprise, Corriere dello Sport believe Milan could be in for the striker too, after selling Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the week. With van Persie showing no signs of performing a u-turn on his decision not to renew his deal, it remains a case of when and where he will be leaving to this summer, rather than if.

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