Liverpool prepare to battle Arsenal for Serie A midfielder after making Arthur decision

Jason Soutar
Reported Arsenal target Ismael Bennacer shouts in frustration

Liverpool and Arsenal are both interested in signing AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer, according to reports in Italy.

Bennacer was on the Gunners’ books between 2015 and 2017, but only made one first-team appearance in that time.

After failing to break into the north Londoners’ first-team, the Algerian international joined Italian side Empoli, where he spent two years before securing a £14million move to AC Milan.

Bennacer quickly established himself as a key player and helped the Rossoneri win the Serie A last term.

This season, the defensive midfielder has played 31 times across all competitions, but only featured for nine minutes in Milan’s Champions League last-16 win over Tottenham.

Milan are in a bit of a funk at the minute having failed to win any of their last three Serie A matches, with the winless run incidentally beginning when Bennacer returned from injury.

Bennacer has been strongly linked with a return to England in recent months, though he did pen a new four-and-a-half-year contract in January.

This has not stopped the rumours from circulating, however, with Liverpool and Arsenal both reportedly keen.

A report from CalcioMercatoWeb states that Arsenal could tempt Milan into a sale by offering them Folarin Balogun in a swap deal.

Balogun has shone for Stade Reims on loan this season, scoring 16 goals in 26 Ligue 1 appearances.

The Serie A champions have been linked with the 21-year-old since January and his future at the Emirates is in doubt.

The Gunners may look to cash in on Balogun while his stock is high given the fact Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah are both at the club.

Should Bennacer legitimately be a top target for Mikel Arteta, this could be a sensible deal to strike, as long as Arsenal don’t have to pay a large fee on top of letting go of Balogun.

The report claims that Arteta sees the Algerian as ‘the right profile’ for his midfield, despite signing Jorginho and pursuing Moises Caicedo in the winter transfer window.

This has led to Arsenal scouts ‘monitoring’ the 25-year-old ‘very closely’.

Meanwhile, Calciomercato report that Liverpool are prepared to battle the Gunners for Bennacer’s signature.

The same outlet claims that the Reds have already decided not to trigger the option to buy Arthur Melo from Juventus this summer.

The Brazilian midfielder joined the Anfield club on loan after Jurgen Klopp realised late on in the summer transfer window that he needed to sign another midfielder.

Arthur has only made one appearance for Liverpool – coming off the bench late on in the 4-1 Champions League loss at Napoli – having suffered a long-term knee injury last October.

It was perhaps a surprise to discover that Liverpool would not terminate the 26-year-old’s loan despite the fact he did not make his return to full training until February.

He was an unused substitute during last weekend’s 1-0 loss at Bournemouth.

Despite the fact Liverpool are in dire need of midfield reinforcements, Calciomercato have confirmed that the Premier League giants have no desire to sign Arthur on a permanent basis.

He will ‘return’ to Juventus this summer. Liverpool have the option to sign Arthur for £30.1m.

The Reds are expected to sign at least two new midfielders in the summer window, with Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham their top target.

READ MORE: Arsenal show no signs of Europa hangover as Saka once again shines to help dismantle Palace