Unai Emery hands Mikel Arteta Arsenal transfer boost after calling out £52m 'lie'

Unai Emery, Manager of Aston Villa, and Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal, embrace prior to the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on April 14, 2024 in London, England.
-Credit: (Image: (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images))

Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery looks to have handed Mikel Arteta a transfer boost following a bold Aston Villa admission. Emery, who was sacked by the Gunners in November 2019, returned to the Premier League three years later as the replacement for Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa.

In his two campaigns at Villa Park, Emery has built an impressive squad that recently qualified for the Champions League, with two wins against Arsenal proving key. Meanwhile, at Emirates Stadium, Arteta has successfully brought Arsenal back into the conversation for regular trophies with an exciting project in place.

Given the ambitions being shown by both clubs, it is completely understandable they would have similar transfer targets, with Real Sociedad star Mikel Merino emerging as one. The Gunners have shown interest in his teammate Martin Zubimendi, but that appears to have cooled with perhaps more focus on his midfield partner.

According to a report from Monday's edition of the Spanish newspaper Sport, Arteta is keen on signing the former Newcastle man, with Barcelona also interested. Villa had been mooted as another option, though Emery has directly addressed the rumours and squashed them emphatically.

“It’s all a lie," he told El Diario Vasco. "There has been no interest in signing Mikel Merino while I’ve coached Aston Villa. One makes up a rumour and launches it. People pick it up and make it their own.

"La Real have very good footballers, and there could be interesting players for Aston Villa, but we have not even promoted interest in any player. In the specific case of Merino, there is nothing.” With Villa out of the race, Arsenal appear free to sign Merino if they so please.

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Merino has a £52million release clause in his contract, as per The Sun, which expires in 2025, and further reports in Spain indicate he has no intention to extend, with the midfielder having already delivered a verdict on his future.

“The next step has to come from within, from me, from analysing myself, seeing what player I am now, where I am and where I want to go. And what is the way to do it. Now at a football level I still have one more year at Real and I am in the best possible place to live and grow,” he told Relevo.

“Rumours are something that I do not give importance to because I believe that a Euros is the most important thing you can face and requires 100% of your attention. So when the Euro is over and the days go by, I will meet with the club and my representative, to see what they have to say to me and what they don’t, and we’ll see.

“You never know where football can take you, and I am willing to continue my career wherever my heart and my head ask me to.”