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Arsenal have begun talks to sign Nice midfielder Jean Michael Seri.
Raul Sanllehi, the Gunners’ head of football operations, is keen on the Ivory Coast international and tried to sign him at Barcelona last summer.
Nice rejected a £35million offer and Sanllehi was disappointed with his Barca chiefs that they were not willing to increase the bid.
Both Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain have extensively scouted Seri, 26, this season.
But it now appears that Arsenal have stolen a march on their rivals by opening talks with the player – who is believed to have a £35m release fee that kicks in over the coming weeks.
Seri started his career in his homeland with ASEC Mimosas before moving to Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira, following a stint with Porto’s B team.
Nice snapped him up in 2015 for around £750,000, with Seri appearing in almost every Ligue 1 match since.
Arsenal’s move signifies a shift in approach to recruitment, before Arsene Wenger has even returned from France to clear out his office on Thursday.
Departing boss Wenger previously had total control of the club’s recruitment process.
But Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat, the head of recruitment, are set to oversee the club’s transfers going forward.
Gunners chief exec Ivan Gazidis ideally wants to appoint a coach who will continue the Wenger’s hands-on approach to training, but have less say in player recruitment.
Ex-Gunners captain Mikel Arteta is favourite for the job, with Carlo Ancelotti, Max Allegri and Luis Enrique the other frontrunners.
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