The keys to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s much-awaited move from Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal are in the hands of an unlikely holder: Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente.
Llorente at the head of a transfer chain
Arsenal and Dortmund have agreed a €63 million deal, plus €5m in variables, for Aubameyang. The player is open to the move, but the Bundesliga club will not sanction his departure until they find a replacement.
Chelsea outcast Michy Batshuayi is the striker Dortmund want. Batshuayi was close to a move to Sevilla, but has been seduced by the idea of a move to Germany. Antonio Conte is willing to let him leave Chelsea. The problem, once again, is that the selling club – Chelsea – are unwilling to sanction the move until they sign a replacement striker.
This is where Llorente enters the equation. In the last few hours, rumours linking Chelsea with a move for Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud have gained momentum. Giroud wants to leave north London in order to play more in the second half of the season, with a World Cup looming in June. Arsenal, however, are demanding more than €30m for Giroud, 31, because they are reluctant to sell to a direct rival.
Llorente more affordable than Giroud for Chelsea
So Antonio Conte has turned his attention to Llorente, whom he tried to sign from Swansea City in the last two transfer windows. He will hope it is a case of third time lucky. Conte worked with Llorente in Italy, where he played alongside Álvaro Morata. Llorente also has a good relationship with the four Spanish players in the Chelsea squad.
The deal for Giroud is not dead in the water. But Chelsea have opened talks with Tottenham in order to have an alternative. The Blues first approached Tottenham at the start of the month, and it is thought that it would take a bid of €13m – considerably less than Giroud – to prize Llorente away from the club.
Over in East London,West Ham are watching the scene unfold with a keen interest. David Moyes is also keen to sign Giroud, and believes that Arsenal would be more open to selling him to West Ham than Chelsea.
With 48 hours until the transfer window closes, it is possible that the first domino will fall and the following transfers will go through: Aubameyang to Arsenal, Batshuayi to Dortmund, Llorente to Chelsea, and Giroud to West Ham. The next few hours will be decisive, and could spark a frantic end to the January transfer window in London.