Arsenal were linked with a number of midfielders throughout the summer but failed to get a deal over the line for a single one after ultimately leaving things too late – but they could now use the free agent market to solve their issues.
Injuries to Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny have already hampered Mikel Arteta’s midfield options this season but now they could look to sign Portuguese midfielder Xeka, having missed out on Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz at the end of the transfer window.
Here is all you need to know about the reported Arsenal target, including who he’s played for, his career so far and what’s been said about him.
Who is Xeka?
Xeka is a midfielder who is currently a free agent after leaving Ligue 1 club Lille at the end of last season, having spent five years with the French outfit following his arrival from Braga in 2017, whom he began his senior career with. As reports 90min, Arsenal are believed to be one of the clubs to have made contact with Xeka’s representatives.
Born on November 10, 1994, the 27-year-old began his youth career with Pacos Ferreira in 2003. He then left to enjoy spells at Gondomar and Valencia, before returning to his roots in 2012. One year later, he joined Braga’s B team, before enduring a two-year loan spell at second-tier outfit Covilha.
Upon his return to Braga B in 2016, he was promoted to the senior squad for that season, although he joined Lille on loan in 2017 and eventually made the move permanent that year. Xeka has never appeared for Portugal’s national team but made one appearance for the under-20’s in 2014.
Career so far
After being promoted to Braga’s first team during the 2016-17 season, Xeka made 18 appearances across all competitions in which he recorded one assist and featured in the final of the Allianz Cup. But following Jorge Simao’s appointment at the end of the year, his fortunes changed and he was sent out on loan to Lille for the rest of the season.
The 27-year-old recorded one goal and two assists in 13 Ligue 1 appearances, before Lille signed him on a permanent basis after activating his €5million (£4.3m) release clause. However, at the end of the same transfer window, he joined Dijon on a season-long loan, where he recorded two goals and three assists in 17 appearances for the club.
Nonetheless, Xeka recorded eight goals and five assists in 129 games for Lille over the next four seasons and played a huge part as they won the Ligue 1 title in 2020-21, before scoring the winner against Paris Saint-Germain to win the 2021 Trophée des Champions.
What can he bring to Arsenal?
Xeka has already proved his worth in Lille’s midfield after they beat PSG to the Ligue 1 title two seasons ago, and has plenty of top flight experience in France, as well as in the Champions League, that would bode him well should he make the switch to the Gunners.
Even if he was brought in as extra cover, he would be a good option off the bench for Arteta’s side and has the capability to slot in for Partey and Elneny, alongside Granit Xhaka, in what is his preferred position on the field. The former Lille captain can also bring with him a number of leadership skills that will help to control things on the pitch.
Following his contract renewal with Lille in 2019, club CEO Marc Ingla said : “Xeka is one of the important faces of our project. He had a very good season and he made up a lot of second place. He arrived at a complicated time and hung on, progressed, proof that hard work pays off. Xeka also has this added value in the human dimension. He is perfectly integrated into the club, the region and very popular in the locker room.”