Arsenal have triggered the release clause in Jamie Vardy’s contract and are ready to prise the England international from Leicester City in a deal worth around £20m.
Arsène Wenger’s pursuit of Vardy represents a significant shift from Arsenal’s transfer policy in the past but the striker’s availability for a relatively modest fee, and the alternative option that he provides in attack with his searing pace, has fuelled the manager’s interest.
Talks have taken place and it would now appear that the ball is in Vardy’s court as to whether he wants to leave the Premier League champions and move to Arsenal at a critical juncture in his career. He turns 30 in January, has been playing the best football of his life, and it is almost a case of now or never in terms of whether he leaves Leicester for one of the Premier League heavyweights.
Wenger was watching at Wembley on Thursday night, when Vardy started in England’s 1-0 victory over Portugal, and the timing of Arsenal’s attempt to sign the player, just before Roy Hodgson’s squad leave for the European Championship finals, means that the transfer is unlikely to be allowed to rumble on.
Manchester United have also explored the possibility of signing Vardy but their No1 target up front remains Zlatan Ibrahimovic, leaving the door open for Arsenal to make their move. With Danny Welbeck sidelined with a long-term injury and Olivier Giroud a totally different type of striker, Vardy has the chance to be Arsenal’s first-choice forward when the new season starts if he makes the switch. He would also pick up a healthy increase on the £70,000 a week wages he earns at Leicester.
Leicester have not give up hope of holding on to Vardy. He signed an improved three-and-a-half-year contract in February – albeit with that release clause – and is seen as such a key part of their plans. Vardy has a close relationship with Leicester’s Thai owners as well as Claudio Ranieri, the manager, and there is a collective desire on their part to keep the title-winning team together for one more season at least.
It is possible that Leicester will now offer Vardy another new contract to try to persuade him to remain at the King Power Stadium and see out his career there. He scored 24 Premier League goals in a season when Leicester defied 5,000-1 odds to be crowned Premier League champions and it would be a huge blow for the club to lose him. Vardy, however, could be forgiven for thinking that last season was as good as it will ever get at Leicester, even if there is the promise of Champions League football to come when the new campaign gets underway in August.
It is an almost unique position that Vardy finds himself in as he weighs up the pros and cons of what to do, given that he spent nine years playing non-league football and only broke into the professional game in 2012, when he joined Leicester from Fleetwood for £1m. He has since gone on to win seven England caps and score three times for his country.
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