Arsenal reject chance to re-sign Milan-bound Ismaël Bennacer from Empoli

• Club had clause that allowed them to match bids for midfielder
• Neil Lennon says Celtic want to keep Kieran Tierney

Arsenal have rejected the opportunity to re-sign Ismaël Bennacer, with the Algeria midfielder set to join Milan from Empoli.

Bennacer, who was named the best player of the group stages of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and has since helped Algeria to reach the final, joined Arsenal in 2015 but made only one first-team appearance in north London before joining Empoli in 2017. Despite their relegation on the final day of the season, the 21-year-old’s performances in Serie A attracted the attention of several clubs, with Napoli also understood to have shown an interest in signing him.

But having inserted a clause in his contract when he joined Empoli which stipulated that they could match any bids that were received for Bennacer, it is understood that Arsenal have opted against that option after Milan’s bid of €16m (£14.4m) plus €2m in add-ons was accepted over the weekend. He is now expected to complete his move to San Siro after Friday’s Afcon final against Senegal.

Arsenal, who defeated Colorado Rapids 3-0 in a friendly on Monday with one of their goals from Gabriel Martinelli, have so far added only the Brazilian midfielder to their squad, but face a fight with Tottenham to secure the French teenager William Saliba from Saint-Étienne amid uncertainty over Laurent Koscielny’s future.

Meanwhile, Neil Lennon has warned Celtic will not be pushovers in any Kieran Tierney transfer after rejecting a second bid from Arsenal. Celtic are thought to have set a £25m price tag for the left-back with Arsenal’s latest bid reported to have fallen short in terms of the structure of the add-ons.

Lennon said: “I don’t know what Arsenal’s financial state is, I know what ours is and we are quite comfortable with the situation at the moment. There has been a second bid, the bid has been rejected, and it’s as you were.

“Whether they come in again or not, I can’t answer that. He’s a great player and a great talent and at 22 he has already achieved a hell of a lot in his career and has so much more to give to the game.

“It doesn’t surprise me there are potential suitors out there for a player of his quality but he’s our player, he’s on a long-term contract and - while it’s a back-handed compliment for all the work people have done here over the years with Kieran - we don’t want him to go.”

Lennon was asked if Arsenal’s bid was disrespectful given Manchester United recently paid Crystal Palace £50m for full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

“Disrespectful is strong but I do feel our valuation of Kieran is correct,” Lennon said. “We can’t do anything about what clubs do in England. Fifty million for Wan-Bissaka is a lot of money.

“We feel Kieran is a far more experienced and more rounded full-back at this juncture of his career. So he’s an asset for us and we rate the player very, very highly.

“We are not going to be pushed over in any negotiations, we are in a strong position in a lot of our assets in the team.”


Fabrizio Romano

The GuardianTramp

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