Chelsea and Barcelona will face each other in the Champions League and reports suggest they might also go head to head for the signature of Brazilian midfielder Arthur Melo.
Arthur has come to the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs after helping Gremio win this year’s Copa Libertadores – the South American equivalent of the Champions League.
The 21-year-old looks to have a bright future ahead of him, but who exactly is he? And what’s the latest on his future?
The story so far
Arthur was born in Goiania in central Brazil, where he started out at local club Goias before making the move to Gremio in the city of Porto Alegre in 2010. He shone in their youth ranks, with former Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari handing him his senior debut in February 2015.
Arthur helped Gremio win the Copa do Brasil in 2016 but it wasn’t until this year that he became a key player. He won the Brasileirao’s best newcomer award and earned a place in the official team of the year as they finished fourth, and he was even better in the Copa Libertadores, playing a starring role until he was forced off with an ankle injury in the second leg of the final.
The injury means he will not get an opportunity to showcase his talents at the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup, where Gremio will face Mexican side Pachuca before a possible showdown with Real Madrid in the final, but the Brazil youth international seems destined to hit the big stage sooner rather than later.
Arthur is a deep-lying playmaker known for his high level of technical quality and excellent passing ability. His 93.1 per cent success rate was the best in the Brasileirao last season, and he also averaged more passes per 90 minutes (82.2) than anyone else.
His playing style has earned him comparisons with Andres Iniesta and Thiago Alcantara, so it’s no surprise that Barcelona see him as a good fit for their midfield. According to newspaper reports in England, meanwhile, Chelsea see him as a potential successor to Cesc Fabregas.
Arthur does not score many goals or even claim many assists, but his impeccable distribution is invaluable to Gremio’s build-up play. Rather than being a player who dominates the headlines himself, Arthur is the type who provides a platform for his team-mates to shine.
Arthur caused a stir when he was pictured wearing a Barcelona shirt during a meeting with his agents and representatives from the Catalan club last week. Gremio responded angrily, saying it was an “unprecedented” event and insisting they will not sell him for anything less than his €50m buy-out clause.
Guillem Balague has confirmed Barcelona’s interest in the player – telling Sky Sports that Ernesto Valverde is eager to add a creative midfielder to his squad in January – but he insists the Catalan side are reluctant to pay the full buy-out clause and still hope to negotiate the price down.
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December 17, 2017, 7:40pm
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Arthur has promised he won’t leave Gremio “by the back door”, but manager Renato Gaucho admits the Brazilian club are losing hope of keeping him.
“Arthur is a player who won the title and has helped us a lot,” Gaucho told Globoesporte last week. “He’s been one of the best in our team and there’s been a large amount of clubs after him, but that’s normal. We’re happy to know that we have a player that the Europeans are following, but if he is going to continue here… sincerely, that will be very difficult.”