Premier League clubs have once again splashed the cash in the transfer market this summer, but the longer-term thrill of a ‘bargain basement’ signing can often eclipse the instantaneous joy of a big-money move.
Arsenal fans were rightly enraptured by the club-record signing of Nicolas Pépé for £72million last month, but their £8million acquisition of Mattéo Guendouzi in 2018 was arguably the Gunners’ best bit of business in recent years.
That transfer was largely unheralded at the time but has provided the kind of value for money that probably still elicits smiles across the Arsenal boardroom when they recall the relative pittance paid for the Frenchman.
Across North London Tottenham Hotspur have been enjoying that sense of smug satisfaction for a number of years, having become the masters of spotting a bargain over the past decade.
Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris all joined the Lilywhites for under £12million, and have gone on to help Mauricio Pochettino’s side perform well above expectations on a significantly lower budget than some of their top-six rivals.
It would, therefore, be no surprise if both Arsenal and Tottenham were casting glances in the direction of Belgian right-back Thomas Meunier, who has entered the final 12 months of his contract with big-spending Paris Saint-Germain.
His time at the Parc des Princes has largely been successful – winning two Ligue 1 titles and three domestic cups – but the 36-cap Belgian international now finds himself in a three-way battle for the right-back berth under current coach Thomas Tuchel.
The departure of legendary Brazilian Dani Alves has left Meunier competing with the likes of Colin Dagba and Thilo Kehrer for a spot in the starting line-up, and the 6ft 3in colossus appears unwilling to commit to a new contract until he is assured of a starting spot:
“I have always said that I wanted to stay in Paris. I still have one year on my contract and I still hope an extension can be secured,” he told RTBF.
“The situation is a little more complicated because I am no longer the preferred choice in my position, but I remain professional.
“I feel good there and we will see what happens during the season.”
With no contract offer currently on the table, clubs across Europe will be aware of Meunier’s availability and a number of Premier League sides will surely be leading the chase for his signature.
Tottenham could well be at the front of the queue, as the top-flight team that look most desperately in need of a right-back.
The summer departure of Kieran Trippier to Atlético Madrid has left last season’s Champions League finalists with the out of favour Serge Aurier and hot prospect Kyle Walker-Peters as their only natural right-sided defenders.
Arsenal’s reduced financial power from a lack of Champions League football will surely see them continuing their search for value, after a transfer window that saw them balance out their big-budget additions with the more modest purchase of David Luiz and the loan signing of Dani Ceballos.
The Gunners will soon have Héctor Bellerín back to full fitness after over eight months out with a knee injury, but could still be in the market for a right-back to give current incumbent Ainsley Maitland-Niles the opportunity to move into his more natural midfield position.
A player of Meunier’s pedigree will probably be looking for European football, but it’s even possible that Everton could launch an audacious bid to bring the Belgian to Goodison Park.
Despite only recently signing Djibril Sidibé on loan from Monaco to play in the same position, the Toffees are only too aware that first-choice right-back Séamus Coleman will be turning 31 next month and may be nearing the end of his career at the highest level.
It would only be prudent of Everton to look to the future, and replacing their captain with Meunier would undoubtedly be a statement of intent from the upwardly mobile Blues.
Coleman is certainly good enough to hold down a first-team spot for the remainder of this season, which makes Meunier an even more appealing option as he is reluctant to make a move in the January transfer window:
“I have already spoken with the coach,” he revealed this week.
“We are aware that this year will be complicated. But I have always thought that leaving in the middle of the year is a bad idea because I think that the clubs which do business in January are clubs that, for me, act in haste.
“I have the impression when transfers are done in January that they are not thought out but rather a question of necessity.
“So for me a transfer in January is a no, even if I spend the first few months on the bench.”
A pre-contract agreement could still be agreed once we enter 2020, and it would not be a surprise to see Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur among the teams battling it out for the Belgian over the coming year.
With seven major trophies and more than 300 career appearances to date, the imposing defender is set to become one of Europe’s most sought-after stars.
It will be intriguing to see who will prevail when the chase for Meunier’s signature finally gets underway.