Arsenal and Newcastle go head-to-head for €80m defender who is set to star at AFCON

Arsenal and Newcastle go head-to-head for €80m defender who is set to star at AFCON

Arsenal and Newcastle are reportedly set to go head-to-head for the transfer of Sporting Lisbon star Ousmane Diomande, who will represent his country at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 20-year-old centre-back has been named in the Ivory Coast squad by head coach Jean-Louis Gasset, along with a number of current Premier League stars.

Former Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe will also be involved, while former Barcelona midfielder Franck Kessie is another notable name included in the squad.

Diomande has been one of the star defenders in Liga Portugal this season and, via WhoScored, has the second-highest pass success rate (91.2 per cent) of any defender in the division this season.

He plays on the right of a back three for Sporting, alongside Goncalo Inacio and former Liverpool defender Sebastien Coates, and is expected to be in high demand over the upcoming windows.

Football Insider reported on Monday that the Gunners had contacted Diomande's family, with manager Mikel Arteta aiming to bring in a new central defender. A move in January, though, may be difficult due to reported FFP concerns.

The same outlet now claims that Newcastle have made contact with the player's representatives, with the Magpies unsurprisingly looking to act following a defensive nightmare in their 4-2 defeat to Liverpool on New Year's Day.

And Portuguese outlet Record (via Sport Witness) report that the Gunners will send scouts to the Africa Cup of Nations to watch Diomande, who is valued at €80 million, in action as they look to move ahead of Newcastle in the race to sign him.

The 20-year-old is tipped as a star of the future, and could add crucial squad depth for the Gunners, with concerns over their backline in the event of an injury to William Saliba and Gabriel.

Should he star at AFCON, there could be an even greater race for his services from top clubs around Europe.
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