Barcelona are set to face Martin Zubimendi, the man they want to replace Sergio Busquets, in tricky Copa del Rey tie with Real Sociedad and Xavi won’t say a bad word about him… but £52m-valued midfielder has his heart set on Arsenal move
- Arsenal reached an agreement to pay Zubimendi’s £52.5million release clause
- Barcelona are also interested but won’t be able to compete financially
- Zubimendi turned down a January move to the Gunners from Real Sociedad
Arsenal target Martin Zubimendi faces Barcelona in the Spanish Cup on Wednesday night having already decided that he wants to move to the Premier League at the end of the season, and not to the current Spanish league leaders.
Barca want Zubimendi to replace Sergio Busquets whose contract runs out in the summer but they can’t compete financially with Arsenal and the player favours a move to England over staying in LaLiga.
Arsenal reached an agreement with his club this month to pay his £52.5million release clause but the player does not want to leave his hometown team in the middle of the season and the deal is more likely to happen at the end of the campaign.
Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi (right) is in demand from both Arsenal and Barcelona
Barcelona view Zubimendi as the player they want to replace Sergio Busquets in midfield
Zubimendi has never hidden the fact that he wants to play Premier League football at some point in his career and rejected Real Sociedad’s attempts to increase his release clause when his contract was last renewed.
‘He is a great player,’ said Xavi on Tuesday when asked about Zubimendi’s billing as the ‘next Busquets’. ‘But they are different. Zubimendi is more physical and quicker while Sergio is more technical.’
Zubimendi, who turns 24 next month, said much the same as Xavi when he was asked about comparisons to Busquets at the start of the season.
The midfielder told Sportsmail: ‘Busquets is unique as a holding midfielder. He is very good at what he does: the feints, the interceptions and he is very clever in the way he presses in a forward direction after the ball is lost.
‘I think he finds it harder when he has to run back. That’s where I can be different: running back after the ball is lost, covering a lot of ground.’
However, Arsenal are also interested in Zubimendi and have the greater financial muscle
Zubimendi has made no secret of his desire to one day test himself in the Premier League
Zubimendi will be up against Busquets on Wednesday as well as Barcelona’s 18-year-old midfielder Gavi. Xavi was asked about complaints emanating from Madrid that the robust midfielder gets away with over-the-top tackles that would see other players booked.
He hit back at the double standards of some of the critics: ‘When he plays for Spain he’s marvelous but when he plays for Barcelona he crosses the line,’ he said.
‘In the national team he’s marvelous but with Barca he’s over the top. I want him to put even more passion. I wouldn’t put the brakes on him at all – there are no limits to what he can become.’
One of the reasons Zubimendi does not want to leave Real Sociedad in the middle of their season is the prospect of abandoning their greatest campaign ever.
Barcelona boss Xavi was full of praise for the 23-year-old ahead of the Copa del Rey fixture
They are third in the league; in the cup quarter-finals; through in the Europa League; and playing better than any team in Spain.
Xavi knows this will be a test for his Barcelona side who have not impressed at home this year drawing with Espanyol and only narrowly beating Getafe.
‘It’s a decisive game,’ he said. We will need our fans – let’s see if there are 80,000 in the stadium, that would help us because Real Sociedad are a very good team.’
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