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Thomas Lemar transfer: How close Liverpool and Arsenal came to bringing him to the Premier League before

The Independent logo The Independent 14/01/2020 Melissa Reddy
a screen shot of Thomas Lemar in a red shirt © Provided by The Independent

Hello, Thomas Lemar. And welcome back to the familiar setting of being a transfer target for Premier League clubs.

Chelsea and Tottenham both enquired this month about the possibility of an initial loan deal for the 24-year-old, who Diego Simeone admitted “hasn’t been able to live up to expectations” at Atletico Madrid, following his £52.7 million switch from Monaco in July 2018. Wolves are also in the mix for the World Cup winner as they seek another dimension to their attacking play, with Nuno Espirito Santo conceding the club have to reinforce their squad in the world.

Lemar has been here before, the subject of interest from England’s top-flight, although the circumstances are markedly different.

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In the summer of 2017, Liverpool and Arsenal jostled for the explosive dribbler, described by by former France international Bixente Lizarazu as possessing a “left foot like caviar.” He was then considered one of his country’s premier emerging talents, but Atleti now want to offload him given his struggles in Spain.

Lemar has failed to score in 21 matches across all competitions so far this season and he must get stuck on what could have been if his arrival to the Premier League coincided with that of his former teammates Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva and Tiemoue Bakayoko. The Independent rewinds to the barely believably deadline day that affected so many parties.

31 August 2017

a group of football players posing for a picture: Lemar fully expected to leave Monaco (AFP via Getty Images) © Provided by The Independent Lemar fully expected to leave Monaco (AFP via Getty Images) Thomas Lemar is at Clairefontaine, quite a distance away from Alexis Sanchez, Virgil van Dijk and Philippe Coutinho, but he is in the same headspace.

Like them, the versatile attacker is on edge, desperate to make a deadline-day switch having had to sit tight all summer and watch so many of his Monaco teammates wave au revoir!

These players are not solely linked by a desire to take the next step in their careers, but more intrinsically too.

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Sanchez is, as expected, the subject of a £60million bid from Manchester City, with Arsenal lining up Lemar as his replacement.

Coutinho is agitating to leave Liverpool for Barcelona and while the Merseysiders are steadfastly rejecting their “derisory offers”, the club have to prepare for his eventual departure. Set-piece specialist Lemar is just the ticket and they have already had £55m and £64m proposals for him batted away by Monaco.

Van Dijk is at Southampton, who Liverpool were forced to publicly apologise to in June for tapping up the centre-back. The Dutchman, also wanted by City and Chelsea, is desperate to move to Anfield. Despite flirting with Arsenal, Lemar also labels Liverpool his destination of choice.

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This complex situation is the final narrative of a head-spinning window in which 1704 deals will be completed across Europe’s top five leagues to the tune of over £4 billion. It is the mental post-Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain world.

Lemar is with France, preparing for the World Cup qualifier against Netherlands in Paris. He is focused, but is also anxious for updates. The WhatsApp group with Monaco’s players, called Transfer Mercato - transfer market – owing to the interest in them that summer, waits on confirmation of his move.

Liverpool have medical representatives and other club employees in the French capital on standby if a deal can be agreed. The club refuse to meet Monaco’s £92m asking price, with their position emboldened by Lemar’s preference to join them. Arsenal, meanwhile, finally reach the latter stages of negotiation with City over Sanchez. In May, they informed the club’s chief executive Ferran Soriano that they would not countenance the sale of the forward. This message was repeated through the summer via Ivan Gazidis, his counterpart at the Emirates.

Fabinho, Thomas Lemar are posing for a picture: Lemar could easily have ended up at Liverpool with Fabinho (AFP via Getty Images) © Provided by The Independent Lemar could easily have ended up at Liverpool with Fabinho (AFP via Getty Images) But with the Chilean increasingly unsettled, that stance softens. City table a £55m plus £5m in add-ons offer as Arsenal go to work on getting in Lemar. The North Londoners failed earlier in the window with bids for the Frenchman, but armed with the incoming money from Sanchez’s impending exit, they accede to Monaco’s eye-watering valuation.

The agreement between the clubs quickly becomes headline news, but Arsenal pull out of the deal due to time constraints and block Sanchez’s transfer to the Etihad.

Their reason is immediately disputed by sources from Monaco, City, Liverpool and those close to the player. The Ligue 1 club insist that despite France having a game that night, they had worked with the national team to make sure a medical and all other formalities could be conducted without snags.

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Lemar’s camp maintain he wants to move to the Anfield side, but Monaco rebuff their final offer of £74m inclusive of extras. Arsenal have the club onside, but not the player with Liverpool in the reverse situation.

Sources from City believe this to be an accurate summation. At around 10am that morning, Soriano received a call from Gazidis to relate that a deal had been agreed for Sanchez’s replacement and Arsenal were pressing ahead to finalise the transfer.

By mid-afternoon, there is silence. Word filters through the industry and to City that Lemar wants to go to Liverpool. The club know they are not getting Sanchez because Arsenal are not getting the France international. There is no move for Lemar, but there are two goals for him in the 4-0 victory over the Netherlands.

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