Arsenal reportedly missed their chance to strike a bargain transfer deal in January because sporting director Edu believed the target in question, Marcos Leonardo, would still be available in the summer. The Brazilian striker has hit the ground running since joining Benfica, while the Gunners may now be forced to pursue significantly more expensive options at the end of the season.
Mikel Arteta went through the month of January without making a single senior addition to his squad. Many supporters felt he needed extra firepower up top, with Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus each struggling to rack up goals.
Edu had reportedly earmarked former Santos youngster Marcos Leonardo as an attacking target. According to HITC, the Gunners transfer chief is a ‘huge admirer’ and would have had ‘no problem’ matching Benfica’s successful £15.8million bid.
However, by the time the Portuguese giants’ swoop became public knowledge, it was too late for Arsenal to wade in with a proposal of their own. Edu was said to be holding fire as he believed Marcos Leonardo would still be available in the summer.
It won’t have taken long for the Arsenal chief’s regrets to start kicking in, with the 20-year-old making a barnstorming start to life in Portugal. Three appearances off the bench for Benfica – totalling 75 minutes of action – have already yielded three goals.
A number of the Gunners’ other striker targets would command price tags several times more than that of Marcos Leonardo. Brentford, for example, are set to demand around £80m for Ivan Toney – a difference of just over £64m.
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It fell to Arsenal’s wide men to come up with the goods in the vital 3-1 win over Liverpool on Sunday. Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have frequently picked up the slack for Arteta when the central striker fails to find the net.
Edu and the Gunners boss will hope their reluctance to pursue a new frontman in January does not come back to bite them. Arsenal currently sit third in the Premier League table, two points behind league-leaders Liverpool.