Arsenal hold talks with Uruguay and Sampdoria holding midfielder Lucas Torreira

Jeremy Wilson
The Telegraph

Arsenal have continued their attempt to add greater steel through the spine of the squad by holding talks over the potential signing of Uruguay and Sampdoria holding midfielder Lucas Torreira.

Since replacing Arsene Wenger as manager, Unai Emery has already bolstered the defence with the free transfer of Stephan Lichsteiner and a £16 million deal for Borussia Dortmund centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos but adding physical presence in midfield is another priority.

Arsenal’s head of recruitment Sven Mislintat had long been scouting for players in these areas even before Wenger left and there is now firm interest in Totteira, who is 22 and has a £22 million release clause.

It is understood that there is ongoing contact between the clubs and that the deal will hinge on the structure of the payments, with Arsenal ready to spend in excess of £25 million if the fee is spread over several years.

Emery is having to manage a restricted budget this summer following big spending on wages and fees over the previous two years amid what will be a second successive season out of the Champions League.

Torreira broke into the Uruguay squad this year after joining Sampdoria in 2015 and is in the 23-man party that is preparing for the start of the World Cup in Russia on Thursday.

Arsenal have considered other central midfield solutions, including Steven N’Zonzi, but there is greater interest in Torreira. The wider strategy will also be influenced by ongoing contract talks with both Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere.

Should Torreira follow Sokratis in joining, whose arrival at Arsenal cannot be confirmed until next month, Emery will have already spent most of his summer budget although he could yet raise further funds with player sales.

<span>Ainsley Maitland-Niles has been handed a five-year contract by Arsenal</span> <span>Credit: Reuters </span>
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has been handed a five-year contract by Arsenal Credit: Reuters

The longer-term midfield planning was also evident on Tuesday in a new five-year contract for Ainsley Maitland-Niles following an encouraging season that has convinced Emery that he should be part of his squad. Now 20, Maitland-Niles joined the Arsenal academy at the age of nine.

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Arsenal also confirmed the appointment of former winger Freddie Ljungberg as the club’s new Under-23 team head coach.

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