Arsenal move into pole position to sign 24-year-old after Chelsea have second thoughts - sources

By Editor Wayne Veysey | 17 years experience of breaking major stories at Evening Standard, PA and Goal, including exclusives like this

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Arsenal have emerged in pole position in the battle to sign Roma defender Kostas Manolas, Football Insider sources understand.

The Gunners and Chelsea have both expressed an interest in signing the Serie A player, who is rated in the £30million bracket by his club.

But a recruitment source has told Football Insider that Chelsea intend to focus their efforts on signing Manolas’ Roma team-mate Radja Nainggolan.

The 28-year-old central midfielder is a priority target for the west Londoners and their new manager Antonio Conte.

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Chelsea initially wanted Manolas as well but they are set to concentrate their Roma efforts on landing Nainggolan.

This will leave the coast clear for Arsenal to push through a deal for Manolas,  who is on the radar of the north Londoners as they plan to bolster their central defence in the summer.

Football Insider revealed last month that the Londoners are eyeing the centre-back two years after a deal to sign him from Olympiakos collapsed at the eleventh hour.

Arsenal have compiled a detailed dossier on the 24-year-old ahead of a possible summer bid through frequent scouting reports.

Manager Arsene Wenger has highlighted the centre-back position as one of his priorities in the forthcoming transfer window.

The Gunners have only three senior central defenders, including Per Mertesacker, who turns 32 in September and is out of contract in June 2017.

Mertesacker has recently reclaimed his starting place from Gabriel, 25, but neither have totally convinced as Laurent Koscielny’s partner this season.

Manolas has emerged as one the best young defenders in Europe since joining Roma in a £10.3million deal in the summer of 2014.

He has been a mainstay of the Serie A side this season and, with three years still remaining on his contract, his value has increased considerably.

The source told Football Insider that Arsenal offered £8million for Manolas two years ago and held extensive talks with his camp but they were trumped by Roma after Bayern Munich had bought Moroccan star Mehdi Benatia from the Italians for £30million.

In other Arsenal transfer news, the club have made an offer for a 35-goal striker.