Liverpool fans will be sick at the sight of Thomas Partey, but they may be about to see a whole lot more of him.
The Atletico Madrid midfielder, who recently produced a dominant display against the Reds in the Champions League, could be heading to the Premier League this summer.
Arsenal have been long-term admirers of the 26-year-old, who has established himself as one of Atletico’s most important players in recent years.
Now, reports claim Arsenal are close to sealing a deal to bring one of Europe’s best defensive midfielders to the Emirates.
So, what’s the latest news and why are Arsenal so keen on the Ghana star? talkSPORT.com takes a look.
What’s the gossip?
The Gunners are reportedly ready to pay £43million to trigger Partey’s release clause.
Although Atletico are desperate to keep him, Corriere dello Sport claims he is now ‘one step away’ from a move to the Emirates.
There are also rumours Arsenal could offer the Spanish club Alexandre Lacazette in a bid to seal the deal.
The Madrid giants face an uphill battle to keep their star player, due in part to his well-known love for Arsenal and the Premier League.
Atletico are trying to tie him down to a new deal, which would see his wages doubled and his release clause raised to £93m.
But Partey’s father has confirmed the talks with Arsenal, who look set to swoop in before the midfielder agrees fresh terms.
“I called my son after hearing the rumours and he told me that the rumours are true,” Jacob Partey, who was speaking in Ghana, told Tru FM’s ‘Sports World Show’.
“He told me they are holding talks between him and Arsenal. It all depends on the offer Atletico are demanding. If he goes to Arsenal fine, they have a lot supporters in Ghana.
“I will be happy if he decides to move to Arsenal. What they are discussing now is how Atletico will release him.”
Partey is a boyhood Gunners fan and has spoken publicly about his desire to play in England one day.
According to The Athletic, Partey was desperate to join what was then Unai Emery’s side last summer, but the club were unwilling to fork out the £43m fee.
In an interview with ESPN last summer, the Ghana international said: “The Premier League is a good league, it’s very competitive and has some of the best players in the world,” he admitted.
“Hopefully, one day. I would like to play there. My agents are on it so I will leave everything for them.”
What kind of player is he?
The holding role has evolved over the years, so much that the classic box-to-box midfielder is an increasing rarity.
Most teams split the responsibilities in midfield among two, or maybe three, players these days – but Partey does it all.
The Ghanaian’s stats reveal a complete midfielder who is equally capable in both defence and attack.
In this season’s Champions League, Partey has averaged 3.6 tackles per game and 1.5 interceptions, providing excellent protection for his back four.
Then in attack, he makes 1.6 key passes and completes almost two dribbles per 90, which is rather impressive for someone in his position.
Partey can keep things ticking over, too. He was making more than 60 passes per game in this season’s Champions League.
All of those qualities were on show as he dominated Liverpool’s midfield during the 1-0 victory at the Wanda Metropolitano in February.
The 26-year-old is one of the main reasons Diego Simeone’s side have been so solid in defence since his emergence in 2015.
And the more you watch him, the more you realise that £43m is an absolute bargain in today’s market.
What have the experts said?
Simeone is a huge fan of his Atletico mainstay and will no-doubt be desperately disappointed should Partey leave this summer.
Back in January 2019, the Argentine boss claimed the midfielder could’ve easily played for either of the two big Manchester clubs.
The Argentine said: “Thomas is an amazing player. He could have played for Manchester City [or] Manchester United.
“We’re talking about a great player here. I rate him very highly.”
Simeone also believes Partey has gone under the radar because he arrived from Ghana and came through Atleti’s academy.
“I could say so many things [about Thomas], but with some of them I have to shut up,” Simeone said in October last year.
“I’m very happy with Thomas.
“If he had come from an English or German team, he would be [lauded] but he’s from the academy and he’s just Thomas.
“He has been working for many years, non-stop.”
How would he fit in at Arsenal?
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta doesn’t appear to fancy Matteo Guendouzi or Lucas Torreira, while Granit Xhaka’s problems at the Emirates have been well-documented.
Meanwhile, Dani Ceballos looks set to return to Real Madrid once his one-year loan with the Gunners expires.
Long story short, Arsenal desperately need a player like Partey.
The club have been criticised for their defensive frailties this season, but Gunners legend Sol Campbell believes their true problem lies in midfield.
He told talkSPORT earlier this season: “For me, it’s the controlling of the game. The middle of the park is where they’re lacking.
“The steeliness and the balance just isn’t there. It’s the middle of the park, you win or lose a lot of games there.
“You can have a strong back or a strong front, but if you haven’t got a middle that’s really solid, then you have forwards dropping too deep because they’re not getting fed and defenders doing too much.
“You get less attacks against you [with a stronger midfield], because you control the game more and you have the ball more.
“You win second balls and you don’t give silly fouls away. Yes, you’ve got to sort out the back. But in the middle of the park, they’ve got to get someone solid.”
Partey is that man, he’s been doing that very job at Atletico Madrid for years and he’s now in his prime at 26.