Transfer gossip: Arsenal ‘finally’ reach Rice breakthrough but fear Zinchenko move repeat

Arsenal have either signed and sent off The Paperwork or West Ham continue to wait. Either way, the Gunners are leaving it late for their US tour roll call.

It feels like Declan Rice is due an Arsenal testimonial at this point, so protracted have these final stages of his move from West Ham been. And after some wilfully misleading suggestions that the Gunners might increase a club-record bid that has already been accepted, there has mercifully been a reported breakthrough.

Sky Sports – who have again enjoyed painting Arsenal as some degree of incompetent in the transfer market recently, with Kaveh Solhekol quoting a particularly unimaginative source as saying “I’ve never known anything like this saga” – claim that West Ham have ‘finally’ received and signed the paperwork to push the deal through.

The Hammers had faced an infernal wait for Arsenal’s lawyers to comb through the fine print and take out all the clauses about extra payments if Rice was especially trusting of the process, with David Moyes and friends becoming a little frustrated at the delays.

But Arsenal are now ‘set to announce their club-record signing before heading to the US for a pre-season tour on Sunday,’ so everyone can chill out.

Except maybe not. The Sun claim that Mikel Arteta’s side are ‘facing a race against time’ to get Rice through the door in time to fly out with the rest of the squad this weekend.

They suggest The Paperwork has still not gone through on Arsenal’s side so things will go ‘right down to the wire’ as to whether Arteta gets his man soon enough to start pre-season preparations properly.

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Arteta is ‘eager’ to have Rice as part of the crew heading to Washington, New Jersey and Los Angeles over 11 days, starting from Sunday. But he will miss at least the start of the trip if Arsenal cannot get rid of all this red tape.

It was a similar story last season, when Oleksandr Zinchenko could not join their pre-season tour of the US due to prolonged talks with Manchester City. Arteta ‘is eager to avoid a repeat of that situation’ but it is ultimately out of his control.

It is great fun trying to guess who will lead the line for Chelsea in their season opener against Liverpool 29 days from now.

Nicolas Jackson and Christopher Nkunku have arrived for a combined £80m or so but neither are exactly centre-forwards. The same issue might undermine Raheem Sterling’s chances. Armando Broja is an option but inexperience and fitness may count against him. Romelu Lukaku and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remain Stamford Bridge employees, at least technically for the time being.

One obvious possibility is that Todd Boehly will observe his absolute favourite pastime and sign someone new. To that end, Dusan Vlahovic might be the favourite.

The Daily Mail reckon Chelsea ‘are weighing up a move’ for the striker, who would cost £77m outright. That price would come down if a suitable part-exchange is offered – £21m and Romelu Lukaku is an apparent solution – but a loan is out of the question.

The biggest obstacle, finances aside, could be PSG. With Lionel Messi leaving the building and Kylian Mbappe hoping to follow, Vlahovic has emerged as a Parc des Princes target.

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Spurs wish to be the third wheel, as Foot Mercato believe this summer’s striker merry-go-round could see Bayern Munich sign Harry Kane and be replaced by Vlahovic.

The Serbian international is ‘at the top of their list of priority targets’, not least because Spurs ‘still maintain very good relations with Juventus’ after their recent dealings.

The Old Lady have thus ‘recently sounded out the management’ of the north London club to see if they are receptive to a deal. Spurs are not ‘indifferent’, which for Daniel Levy basically means he’s enthralled by the idea.

But the situation remains ‘pending’ as ‘many European clubs are waiting for the first domino’ to fall in the market; Kane, Goncalo Ramos, Victor Osimhen, Randal Kolo Muani and Lukaku could all be on the move.

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