Spanish daily Sport is reporting that Arsene Wenger is keen on signing Barcelonaâ€™s 18-year-old winger, Gai Assulin whose contract is set to expire at the end of the season.
Wenger holds Barcaâ€™s footballing academy in high regard as evidenced by his signing of Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida from the Catalan giants.
In addition to his love of total football the Arsenal boss adores a youngster in the guise of a bargain and for miser Wenger there is nothing better than a free transfer.
Assulin began his career in his homeland, Israel, at Beitar Tubruk. At the age of 12 his prodigious talent earned him a move to Barcelonaâ€™s youth academy. He steadily rose through the ranks and in August 2007 the youngster graduated to the clubâ€™s B team. He was offered a new contract which included a â‚¬20milion buy-out clause to scare off the various clubs who were showing an interest.
Since 2007 he has become a mainstay with the B team. In all he has represented Barcelona B 60 times and netted 12 goals. Whilst some of his pals such as Giovani, Busquets, Bojan, Krkic and Rodriguez have progressed and made appearances for the first team, Assulinâ€™s career has stalled in comparison. His progress has been hampered by an injury which stopped him from playing football for the majority of last season.
The diminutive winger has been training with the first team this season and has appeared in pre-season friendlies and Copa del Rey clashes but is yet to appear in La Liga for the L’equip blaugrana.
Assuin is versatile and capable of playing on either flank, in tandem with a striker or as an attacking midfielder. He is predominately left footed and enjoys taking a player on and beating him. His technique is excellent and his close control is outstanding enabling him to wriggle out of a tight spot and find space to run into.
However there are concerns regarding his strength and temperament. The fast and frenetic pace of the Premier League combined with the robust treatment meted out by defenders require both mental fortitude and physical strength. Whether the Israeliâ€™s wiry frame can withstand this is questionable.
Pep Guardiola has indicated that he will offer the youngster a new contract at the end of the season. However, with the likes of Messi and Henry in his way, his playing time is likely to be limited. He is hugely popular with the fans who will be sorry to see him depart on a free transfer.
Chelsea tried to sign the Israeli international in 2007 but Assulin rejected the offer choosing to stay and fight for a place in the Barcelona starting line-up.
Super-agent Pini Zahavi, and Barcelona are looking to thrash out a new deal. Nevertheless, if Gai is not promised more first team football he could leave at the end of the season.
The Arsenal manager has been linked with a move for the player before. With Carlos Vela disappointing and Rosicky only signing a one year extension to his contract, Wenger may be willing to take a punt on a player who with the right guidance could become a star.
For video evidence of Assulin playing in Barca’s academy see here.