Arsenal chiefs flying to Lisbon to activate Sporting star's £40m release clause

Arsenal appear to be closing in on their first summer signing with reports in Portugal claiming club bosses will travel to Lisbon at the start of next week to complete a deal for Joelson Fernandes.

The 17-year-old is the latest winger to come through Sporting’s prestigious academy, which has previously produced the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Ricardo Quaresma.

Despite his tender years, he has been included in the matchday squad for all of Sporting’s matches since the football season restarted, making four appearances.

Until now, that is, with Portuguese newspaper A Bola reporting that Joelson has been pulled from the squad that will take on rivals Benfica in Saturday night’s Lisbon derby.

It is claimed that talks are accelerating with Arsenal, which is why the teenager has been left out, and representatives from the north London club will travel to Lisbon on Monday or Tuesday next week to ‘close the deal’.

Joelson has a €45million (£40m) release clause which the Gunners are reportedly set to trigger, with the young winger having backed away from contract talks with Sporting that would have more than doubled his release clause.

Kia Joorabchian – who represents Joelson – is said to be one of the driving forces behind the deal, with A Bola claiming he is also due to arrive in Lisbon imminently to get the deal over the line.

Arsenal’s hierarchy have close ties to Joorabchian, who recently secured a new two-year deal for David Luiz and facilitated the signing of full-back Cedric Soares.

Portuguese news channel TVI 24, meanwhile, claim that Arsenal will not trigger Joelson’s £40m release clause, but have instead tabled a £13.6m offer which they expect will be accepted.

Joelson is very highly rated by Sporting, who are loathe to lose him, and it has also been suggested in the Portuguese media that Barcelona and Juventus are interested in him – but do not have the funds to make a move this summer.

Speaking about the speculation surrounding his future earlier this year, Fernandes said: ‘It is very flattering and I think it represents the value of my work.

‘I did not look at that alleged interest very much, I am happy where I am and fighting to achieve my dream, which is to play for Sporting’s first team. Nobody has told me about this extension offer yet. Besides, I try not to think about these things too much. I just want to play football.’

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