Arsenal are pushing ahead with plans to sign Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana, who has not played since being hit with a 12-month doping ban by UEFA.
The Cameroon international was found to have ingested a banned substance, and although investigators accepted his insistence that it was accidental, the decision was still made to ban Onana for an entire year.
The standard punishment for Onana’s rule-break is four years, but that was dropped to 12 months due to the circumstances surrounding the incident. UEFA argued Onana, as a professional athlete, has a responsibility to control the substances that enter his body and therefore needed to be punished.
The issue has sealed Onana’s imminent departure from Ajax. Goal’s Charles Watts revealed in May that Arsenal were keen to take advantage of the situation, and now NOS state that the Gunners are close to wrapping things up.
Arsenal are not convinced by current starter Bernd Leno and hope to replace him this summer, and club officials see a cut-price deal for a player who was valued at close to £50m just a few years ago as too good to turn down.
Things are expected to heat up once Onana learns the verdict of his appeal on Wednesday. He may be given permission to start playing again in time for next season, but lawyers believe knocking a few months off the ban is the best they can hope for.
The outcome of that case will dictate the fee involved in this deal. Ajax are prepared to accept less than £2m if Onana remains banned, but will bump that up to closer to £7m if he is free to play – still a ridiculous bargain.
The 25-year-old, who has 12 months remaining on his contract, has already said his goodbyes and is now focused on his future, which is expected to be wrapped up fairly quickly once his appeal has been concluded.
What Arsenal will do if Onana remains banned is unclear. Leno is still on the books but could be sold this summer, potentially leaving the team without a starting goalkeeper for half a season.
Brighton’s Mat Ryan is expected to complete a free transfer to the Emirates this summer after his loan deal expires, but whether Arsenal would sign another short-term stopper to bridge the gap until Onana arrives remains to be seen.
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