Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho is considering a surprise move to sign Ainsley Maitland-Niles from Spurs’ arch-rivals Arsenal this summer. The midfielder has been put up for sale by the Gunners despite suggestions Mikel Arteta would like to keep him.
The 22-year-old has reportedly been earmarked as a sellable asset as Arsenal look to raise funds to try to sign some of Arteta’s key targets, such as Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey.
The versatile Maitland-Niles has been at Arsenal since the age of six and has racked up 100 first-team appearances since making his debut aged 17 years and 102 days in December 2014.
Favouring a central midfield role, Maitland-Niles has struggled to nail himself down in a single position for the north Londoners however.
He played on the left side of midfield in the FA Cup final win over Chelsea at Wembley this month having also played on the right-hand side, in midfield and in defence, this term.
And such adaptability has made the academy graduate a useful player for Arteta, who would prefer to keep him at the Emirates.
He said after Arsenal beat Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals when it was said that Maitland-Niles was excellent against the Citizens: “Absolutely.
“And I was sure about that with the way he’s training, the way he’s changed his mentality and his mindset.
“He has everything, he has great qualities, I believe in him. I had to give him opportunities and today he took it with both arms. He had a really good performance.”
With Everton and Brighton both said to be keen on Maitland-Niles, who is tied down at Arsenal until 2023, the Sunday People now say that Tottenham have emerged as potential suitors.
Spurs could look to make him the first player to swap Arsenal for their neighbours and arch rivals since 2002, when midfielder Rohan Ricketts did so – though he only ever played once for the Gunners.
However, if Mourinho is to add Maitland-Niles to his ranks, then it could cost him as much as £30million to do so.
The room for negotiation between the two clubs is likely to be far smaller than if Arsenal were to enter discussions over Maitland-Niles future with a team like Brighton.
Spurs are looking to rebuild their midfield and are set to clinch their first signing of the summer in the form of Southampton captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
He will have a medical on Monday after a £15m deal – with bonuses on top – was agreed between the two clubs.
Right-back Kyle Walker-Peters will head the other way in a separate deal that is worth around £12m.
Maitland-Niles could help fill in there with Serge Aurier’s future also uncertain, though he would presumably make it clear to Mourinho that he wants to become a regular box-to-box midfielder.
The Sunday People add that Spurs are also trying to sign Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen, who has also been linked to Everton.
While player-turned-pundit Don Hutchison has warned Spurs that more additions are necessary despite the imminent arrival of Hojbjerg.
The former Liverpool, West Ham and Everton midfielder told ESPN FC: “I think it’s a good bit of business but it’s not going to make Tottenham into a top-four side or challenge for the title.
“It’ll stiffen their midfield up. You think of people like [Moussa] Sissoko, who is a very good athlete, goes box-to-box and has had a very good 18 months.
“And Harry Winks, whose technically very good, but his passing range is quite limited. He’s only a 10, 15, 20-yard passer of the ball.
“So, he’ll certainly get around the pitch Hojbjerg and he’ll put his foot in. Jose will absolutely love him and Tottenham fans will like that.
“He’s very combative. But if it’s just one signing, and Tottenham fans are thinking ‘this is the signing that’s going to get us into the top-four’, nowhere near.”
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