According to the Mirror, Arsenal considered turning to Bayer Leverkusen centre-back Omer Toprak, when it looked as if their pursuit of Shkodran Mustafi would prove fruitless.
The Gunners had been linked with Mustafi ever since Per Mertesacker sustained a knee injury at the end of July that would rule him out of action for at least five months, and speculation escalated when Gabriel was injured a fortnight later during a friendly against Manchester City. Sky Sports reported that the German international could be available for £25.3 million plus £8.4 million in add-ons; significantly less than his £42.1 million buyout clause. Despite all the noise, as well as Valencia’s need to sell in order to comply with the Financial Fair Play rules as a non-Champions League club, their directors continued to publicly insist that no contact had been made.
Arsenal, who were still hunting a striker at the time, were believed to be juggling their budget, unwilling to commit such vast amounts of money to the purchaser one individual when they might need some extra resources if another were to become available in a different position.
When clubs devise a transfer shortlist, they do so with backup plans in mind should the signing of their preferred target not be feasible for whatever reason. German-born Turkey international Toprak was thought to be Arsene Wenger’s ‘Plan B’ in terms of an incoming central defender, but the Metro claims that the Gunners were dissuaded by Leverkusen’s £40 million valuation of one of their most consistent performers.
After securing the services of Deportivo La Coruña’s frontman Lucas Perez for the relatively modest fee in today’s market of £17.1 million, Arsenal were consequently able to devote the £35 million necessary to prize Mustafi from Valencia. It is the most the club has aver dispensed on a defender but, even without the aforementioned injuries increasing their need, it is a position in which they arguably required improvement.
Superficially, a 24-year-old World Cup winner should provide a short- and long-term quality option, and a reliable partner for Laurent Koscielny as the Gunners look to transition to a quicker, more mobile and front-footed defence, shorn of the steady presence that Mertesacker offers.
It is a move that has excited Gooners, who are eager to see why the long-serving manager has decided to part with more money for Mustafi than he has for any other member of his many backlines during his 20-year tenure.