Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, after reportedly having sealed the signing of FC Koln's German striker Lukas Podolski, is now apparently first in the race to sign Athletic Bilbao's defensive midfielder Javi Martinez, according to a Daily Mail report.
The 23-year-old Basque player has also been targeted by other high-profile clubs, including Barcelona and Manchester United. Nevertheless, it now appears Wenger is well ahead of his competition in the race for this talented midfielder.
The Basque Lions' recent Europa League semi-final victory over Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon on Thursday was reportedly watched by a senior Arsenal scout, who must have been very impressed with Martinez's brilliant performance during the game.
Meanwhile, Wenger, whose promises of moving swiftly and decisively in the summer transfer market seems genuine, is reportedly also interested in French club Rennes' £20 million defensive midfielder Yann M'Vila. Martinez, meanwhile, has a £32 million buyout clause in his contract and could be a very expensive venture for the Gunners; an alternative option could be Anderlecht's Argentine holding midfielder Lucas Biglia.
In a move to quash rumours about the club offloading some of its players to make room for new signings, Wenger has insisted he will not release Cameroonian midfielder Alex Song, regardless of who he signs in the summer. There is reported interest in Song from Italian clubs, including Inter Milan.
Song has nine assists this season, as a result of his newfound expertise in a box-to-box role. However, the development of an attacking side to his game has emphasised his defensive frailties. Inter Milan had earlier been strongly linked to Song but the midfielder's agent, Christophe Mongai, denied all rumours regarding this matter.
"I don't know anything about these rumours but I can assure you that I've never had contact with Marco Branca or with the other Inter leaders," Mongai was quoted as saying by the Metro. Mongai feels Song, whose contract with Arsenal expires in 2014, is a key player for the Gunners.
"Alex is one of the most important Arsenal players, as is clear from the fact that Wenger always starts him. So I don't think the Gunners are going to sell him during the summer transfer window," he added.
Finally, Wenger is desperately trying to persuade Dutch striker Robin van Persie, whose contract expires in 2013, to sign a new deal with the Gunners.
"I am confident for two reasons. First of all, I want to convince him to stay here and to extend his contract. Secondly he is not free at the end of this season, he has one year of his contract left," The Sun quoted Wenger as saying.