League leaders Arsenal are seemingly keeping tabs on Vitoria Guimaraes’ Ibrahima Bamba, according to the latest reports.
What’s the word?
As per CBS reporter James Benge, the Gunners are believed to have watched the 20-year-old midfielder closely of late, with reports emerging back in November that the promising Italian was a target for sporting director, Edu.
Writing on Twitter regarding this persistent interest, the transfer insider revealed: “Arsenal are firm admirers of Italian youngster (and Football Manager wonderkid) Ibrahima Bamba. No bid placed but they’ve been tracking him for some time. Other clubs in Premier League and beyond have Vitoria Guimaraes midfielder, 20, on their radar.”
This comes amid a report from journalist Jacque Talbot that revealed that the player’s “agents are in London“, amid those links to Mikel Arteta’s side.
Dream Partey heir
The addition of Bamba – who reportedly has a release clause of around £26.5m in his existing contract – could well allow Edu and co to secure a dream, long-term heir to current midfield star, Thomas Partey.
The latter man has been a central presence for the club this season after scoring twice in 16 Premier League appearances, having been lauded as the “rock” and “anchor” in front of the back four, in the words of former England international, Matthew Upson.
The former Atletico Madrid machine has proven himself particularly effective at winning back possession during his time in England to date, after averaging 2.3 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game in the top flight this season.
With the Ghanian powerhouse set to turn 30 later this year, however – and having endured a number of injury woes in recent seasons – it may well be wise for Arteta to be eyeing a possible successor in the near future, hence bringing Bamba into the fold before the end of the window.
The “special talent” – as described by writer Zach Lowy – also operates as that screen in front of the back four, while also providing the flexibility to feature in a centre-back berth.
Much like Partey – who stands at 6 foot 1 – the Vitoria sensation also offers an imposing presence due to his towering, 6 foot frame, having notably registered 2.6 tackles and 1.2 interceptions in 16 Primeira Liga games in the current campaign.
That ball-winning prowess has ensured that the Vercelli-born starlet also ranks in the top 10% among midfielders in the ‘Men’s next eight competitions’ for tackles made, as well as in the top 15% for interceptions.
Although Bamba has only made 30 outings at senior level to date, he has already caught the attention of Italy boss Roberto Mancini, with it easy to see why he is “one to keep an eye on“, as per Lowy.
While it may be unlikely for such an inexperienced figure to dislodge Partey any time soon, the hope will for both Edu and Arteta that the youngster can prove to be a long-term solution at the base of the midfield.