Chelsea have been dealt a blow in their pursuit of Napoli’s Senegalese international, Kalidou Koulibaly, 25.
The centre back has been offered to Arsenal and a host of other European clubs as the Italians seek to start a bidding war for their prized asset.
The Blues and Everton have until now been the only ardent admirers but have yet to meet the £38m valuation placed on the player by Napoli.
Arsenal are looking to find a successor to Per Mertesacker, 32, yesterday named the Gunners captain for the coming campaign. However, Wenger knows that the German World Cup winner’s lack of pace was dangerously exposed last season and is already looking to the future.
Whilst the north London club are still talking to Bolton about a £2m deal for Rob Holding, 20, they need an experienced replacement for Mertesacker. Koulibaly certainly fits that bill and is seen as more adaptable to the English game than Gabriel, 25.
The Brazilian centre back still has a poor grasp of English and there are concerns at the club that he will not reach the level needed to challenge for the Premier League until that significantly improves.
Koulibaly has the versatility which Arsene Wenger prizes and is confident playing on the right as well as the centre, of the defence.
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