Just about everywhere in the known universe reported on Wednesday that Arsenal are closing in on a move for Villarreal’s Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista.
Paulista is a highly rated Brazilian 24-year-old centre half (and occasional right back) that plays for Villarreal and has a €20m release clause in his contract.
According to the reports, Wenger has been increasingly impressed with the defender in recent weeks because of his role in Villarreal’s unbeaten run that stems back to the beginning of December.
It all sounds good so far.
On top on top of that, Paulista is keen on a move as he told the press
“If I go to Arsenal it will be excellent. But if it’s not finalised then I am relaxed. I am focused on my work here.
“My agent is working on making sure I continue being calm. Playing in the Premier League is one of my dreams. I have spoken to my agent about this.”
Up until this point it could have been just player and agent talk (angling for a move or looking for a pay rise).
But then in an interview with El Larguero, Villarreal manager Marcelino admitted:
“I hadn’t considered selling Gabriel, it is bad news from a sporting point of view.
“If both Gabriel and the club believe that his sale to Arsenal is the best for all parties, we will accept.”
So it looks like Arsenal are close to getting a Brazilian.
But in typical Arsenal fashion, a move may not be that straight forward…
Of course there is a problem – the need for a work permit.
To qualify for one automatically the rules (at present) state that players must have appeared in at least 75% of a nation’s competitive fixtures over two years if they are ranked inside Fifa’s top 75.
Paulista has appeared in o%.
As he only moved to Europe in 2013, he isn’t yet eligible for an EU passport either (so that’s the route that got Carlos Vela finally to the club counted out as well).
The reports, however, suggest that Arsenal will try to get him through under a “special talent” work permit appeal (asLeicester did with Andrej Kramaric) – but it’s also worth bearing in mind that this normally applies to younger players.
This appeal hearing is rumoured to be taking place in the next couple of days so we should know soon what is actually going on.
It obviously goes without saying that it would be pointless signing Paulista if he didn’t get a work permit.
Surely Wenger would have a back-up target though?
The other major question mark about this move is the fee.
Reports suggest that Arsenal are trying to negotiate a deal of around £6m + add on’s but with Villarreal looking for the full value of the release clause there is clearly a difference in valuation.
Villarreal have been mentioned as potential suitors for Joel Campbell so there is a possibility that a deal could be struck with him going the other way. Whether Wenger would let a third attacker leave in one window remains to be seen.
I’ve read enough about this move by now to be convinced that Arsenal are interested and whilst he may not be the centre half ‘name’ that everyone is looking for, in a lot of ways he would be a typical Wenger signing.
We can only hope that Paulista turns out to be better than Arsenal’s last (major) Brazilian and adapts quickly to the Premier League.
Paulista has made 49 appearances for Villarreal.