And Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has cast more doubt over the potential transfer. “No, I don’t think so,” he told journalist Chris Wheatley , when asked whether Aouar could move to the Emirates this summer. “No offer yet, it seems that Arsenal don’t want to, or can’t invest the price for Houssem, who is our best player.”
That might seem discouraging, but it shouldn’t spell the end for the Gunners. Clubs are often reluctant to admit they might lose their “best player”, as Aulas labelled Aouar.
When Tottenham were being linked with former Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele last summer, Aulas was often similarly dismissive.
“If he had to leave, which is not the case, it would be necessary to recruit someone,” he said in June 2019. “It would take a very substantial proposal for us to even think about selling Tanguy.”
Shortly after, following an opening bid from Spurs, Aulas again claimed Lyon would need to receive a much more significant fee.
“Tottenham made us an opening offer worth €45m,” he said. “Then, we discussed more. Nothing is done, I can assure you.
“We are not in a hurry either. Tanguy has shown his qualities with the French national team.
“He is one of our best players. How much is he worth? I do not know but not just €45m.”
Aulas seems willing to go into more detail than many other club presidents, but he is also clearly a negotiator who likes to use the media to his advantage. By emphasising the need for a hefty fee to sell, and hyping up the quality of the player – as he did with Ndombele and now Aouar – he puts more pressure on the interested club.
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Arsenal have experience of negotiating with Aulas, too, having signed Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon back in 2017. In late June of that year, he said: “I do not think that Alexandre Lacazette will leave this summer.” A week later, the Gunners had completed the signing of the Frenchman.
The situation may be different with Aouar, of course. There is no guarantee that Arsenal will be able to meet Lyon’s demands, particularly given the financial impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The arrivals of Gabriel Magalhaes and Pablo Mari might have taken a significant chunk of this summer’s transfer budget. But if Arsenal can sell some squad players, Aulas might be providing more encouraging updates over the next few weeks.