Arsenal respond as Man City make Bukayo Saka No 1 target to replace Raheem Sterling

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Arsenal will intensify their efforts to tie Bukayo Saka down to a new contract following Raheem Sterling’s Manchester City exit. Sterling has left Man City for Chelsea in a £45million deal, and the Premier League champions’ preferred replacement is bad news for Mikel Arteta.

According to the Daily Mail, Man City have identified Saka as their No 1 target to succeed Sterling among Pep Guardiola’s attacking ranks. The 20-year-old also qualifies as a homegrown player and has flourished into one of Europe’s brightest young talents in recent seasons.

The report states City’s interest is a complication in Arsenal’s desire to extend Saka’s contract in north London, which expires in 2024. Talks over propelling him among the Gunners’ best-paid stars are ongoing, and there is optimism that Saka can be persuaded to commit his future to his boyhood club.

However, Arsenal’s latest failure to qualify for the Champions League comes as a blow due to the England international’s desire to play in Europe’s elite competition. And they may have to include a clause in his new deal that would ease a future departure, should City or another of the continent’s top dogs come knocking.

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How Arsenal start the 2022/23 season could prove decisive in negotiations with Saka, whose future may realistically rest on the club’s ability to qualify for Champions League football. But after a late collapse last term, the Gunners are entering their sixth absent campaign.

Despite concerns, it is understood that Saka is highly unlikely to leave the Emirates Stadium this summer, with Arteta pinpointing him as a crucial fixture in his plans to finally guide Arsenal back into the Premier League’s top four. The Spaniard has further bolstered his attacking options with new signings Fabio Viera and Gabriel Jesus, recruited from Saka’s potential poachers.

If Arsenal’s hopes of returning to the Champions League are dashed after the opening months of the new season, it will become even more challenging to tempt him to stay. And City could make their play as early as January if it’s looking increasingly likely he’s open for a big move.

An exit in the summer of 2023 would be far more probable, though, because he would be entering the final 12 months of his contract. But Arsenal will hope Saka’s future at the club extends far beyond that mark, and their European prospects could be the key.

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