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Sports News of Friday, 17 April 2020

Source: standard.co.uk

Feature: Why Thomas Partey will be a perfect signing for Arsenal

Premier League clubs including Arsenal have had their eye on Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey for some time.

The Ghanaian, 26, is enjoying his best season in LaLiga and with his release clause set at just €50million (£43.5m), it is no surprise he is on the Gunners' radar.

Amid the current break in action due to coronavirus, interest from Arsenal has emerged, with reports that the north London outfit are ready to exercise that clause in a big summer transfer.

Atletico, meanwhile, are working on a new deal to tie down the player until 2026 (his current contract runs until 2023) and want to increase his clause to a more prohibitive €100m (£87m).

So what is all the fuss about? Thomas, as he is known in Spain, has taken time to reach his full potential but has become indispensable at the heart of Atletico's midfield under Diego Simeone in the past couple of years.

After signing terms with Atletico as an 18-year-old in 2011, the Ghanaian went out on loan to Mallorca and Almeria before making his debut with the Rojiblancos in 2015.

Initially, on the fringes, he has grown in importance over the past couple of years and especially since the sale of Rodri to Manchester City last summer.

A defensive midfielder in the mould of Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, Thomas is not only strong and difficult to shake off in possession, but excellent with the ball at his feet and adept at carrying it forward.

Positionally, he has improved immensely under Simeone and has a knack of being in the right place at the right time to win the ball back with key interceptions and move the team up the pitch with his dribbling ability.

"He was fantastic," Simeone said after his man-of-the-match display in the 0-0 draw against Real Madrid in September. "Bringing the ball out from the back and initiating the play.

"He's growing and I'm very happy for him. He was one of the players who gave us the most continuity in our play."

It is not the first time the Argentine has lavished praise on the 26-year-old.

"Thomas is extraordinary," he said last year. "If he came from [Manchester] City or United, we would all be talking of a fantastic player. But as he came from the youth system, it's not said as much. So we say it: he's fantastic."

That was after Thomas had made a trademark 40-yard run to win the ball back for Simeone's side in an impressive performance against Getafe.

But the Ghanaian, despite earning a reputation as a midfield shield, has the ability – and the energy – to pop up all over the pitch and is the type of box-to-box player who would thrive in English football.

Although not prolific, he chips in with several goals per season and has 15 in 174 appearances for Atletico. Playing for Ghana, he has also shown he can assume added responsibility in attack and has 10 goals in his 27 caps.

A number of his strikes have also been blockbuster efforts – powerful shots from outside the box with his right foot. And in a more attacking team than Atleti, he would be an even greater threat at the other end of the pitch.

At €50m, he is a bargain and has his best years ahead of him, which is why Atletico have begun talks to extend his contract.

The Rojiblancos have cut player wages by 70 per cent amid the Covid-19 crisis and CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin spoke of the need to 'safeguard the future of the club'.

As things stand, selling Thomas is not in their plans, but failure to secure Champions League football for next season (Atleti are currently sixth, although just a point off fourth place) could open a window of opportunity.

In the end, it is the player who will decide and he seems happy where he is right now.

But he said last summer: "The Premier League is a good league, it's very competitive and has some of the best players in the world. Hopefully, one day. I would like to play there."

Arsenal fans will hope so too and if a move does happen, he is unlikely to disappoint.

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