Arsenal’s bid to sign Julian Draxler may be accelerated after his club FC Schalke 04 confirmed the signing of fellow attacking midfielder Sidney Sam from Bayer 04 Leverkusen as a potential replacement.
Sam joins the Gelsenkirchen side for just €2.5 million – the minimum fee release clause inserted into his contract when he joined Leverkusen in 2010 – and his old team are disappointed to lose him, having made a series of offers to improve his deal and remove the clause, which were all refused.
The 25 year-old has scored eight goals and provided five assists from the right wing in 17 appearances in Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League this season, and looks set to make a major impact at Veltins Arena.
Arsenal have long been linked with the signing of Schalke’s wonderkid Julian Draxler, 20, who is typically deployed on the left flank, but has proven himself capable of playing across the attacking midfield.
Draxler has four goals and five assists in 20 appearances across league and Champions League so far this term, but is a more comfortable player in possession than Sam, making on average over 55% more passes per match.
The youngster also makes an incredible 5.1 successful dribbles per game in the Bundesliga – second only to Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, and more than anyone in the Barclays Premier League. He is also highly competent with either foot, making him difficult to defend against.
Draxler has repeatedly hinted that his future could lie in north London.
“I like English football,” he told the BBC in November.
“I like the Premier League of course – it’s one of the best leagues in the world.
“You have big clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea – of course it’s a big dream to play for one of them.
“I have my favourite team, but at the moment I’m at Schalke.”
In the same interview, Draxler named some players he admires in the Premier League ahead of Germany’s friendly against England, and mentioned Mesut Ozil as the key man in his country’s team.
“In English football we see many good players – like Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey.
“We have very talented footballers who play nice football, short passes, fast passes, and we have players like Mesut Ozil who can make a difference.”
Last month, his hints were even clearer.
“I have always said English teams are very big clubs and Arsenal is of course one of them,” said the playmaker to Goal.com.
“Of course I sometimes speak to [Arsenal players] Mesut [Ozil] or Per [Mertesacker] about the team, about the club, and they always have good words and they tell me nice things.
“You never know what happens in the summer but Arsenal is a very, very nice team. They always have very young players, they play attractive football and that’s what I like.”
Back then, Draxler did not think there was any chance Schalke would sell him in January – “Schalke have no intention to sell me and my exit clause only takes effect in the summer” – but the signing of Sidney Sam could change things.
In the wake of recent injuries to Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner, Draxler could fill a number of roles in the Arsenal side – and could be a catalyst for the Gunners to continue their impressive form into the second half of the season.