Atletico Madrid are keen to sign Ainsley Maitland-Niles from Arsenal in January and they’re preparing a bid to test Arsenal’s resolve, according to Sky Sports.
Apparently, the Spanish club have been monitoring the progress of the 23-year-old wide man for the past 12 months, aiming to sign a player to cover their right defensive flank for years to come. They may have been eyeing a summer swoop, but their need has become quite urgent in the last few days as Kieran Trippier, the former Tottenham Hotspur man, picked up a 10-week ban worldwide for several accounts of betting rules violation.
Maitland-Niles has mostly been used as a fullback in a back four, or a wing-back in a 3-4-3 system, though he has been known to perform well in midfield, as well as on the right wing. This season, he has made a total of 17 appearances in all competitions with one assist to his name. He has played on eight occasions in the Premier League, five in the Europa League, three in the Carabao Cup and the one in the Community Shield. He may not be a guaranteed starter at the moment (and who is?), but it’s quite obvious he has a not so unimportant role to play in Mikel Arteta’s squad and the odds are, the Gunners would miss his runs up and down that flank if he leaves.
Earlier this summer, Maitland-Niles was reportedly close to joining Wolverhampton Wanderers, who needed a replacement for Spurs-bound Matt Doherty at the time, but Arsenal pulled the plug on the deal, judging (rightly, obviously) that the player would still be needed. And with three years remaining on his contract, they were in a strong position to do so.
However, it feels it could turn out different this time. As reluctant as we may be to acknowledge it, Atletico have far more to offer a player than Arsenal in terms of chances for major silverware this term. They are a regular feature in the Champions League, and as things stand, they could be on their way to winning the La Liga title. It’s very hard to imagine a player like Maitland-Niles not having his head turned by the prospect of joining such a club, given that the Gunners currently sit in 15th place in the Premier League and aren’t very likely to make the long-awaited Champions League return next year.
The report says Atletico are preparing a ‘bold’ January bid, and if that’s proves true, then we really could see Maitland-Niles swap the British capital for the Spanish one.