LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Arsenal are in negotiations to sign Brazilian central defender Gabriel Paulista from Spanish club Villarreal, the Premier League club’s manager Arsene Wenger said on Thursday.
“We are talking at the moment, can we find an agreement or not I don’t know,” the Frenchman told a news conference ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup, fourth tie at Brighton and Hove Albion.
Arsenal allowed former club captain Thomas Vermaelen to join Barcelona last August and did not strengthen the central defensive areas which have been criticised this season.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have been Wenger’s preferred duo at the back but neither have been entirely convincing during the first half of the season.
Paulista, 24, has a release clause in his contract, believed to be 20 million euros ($23.26 million), and Wenger hinted that the Gunners could be prepared to meet it.
“We are progressing, there is a chance,” Wenger said.
“We are ready to pay the price for a good player, no matter what it is if we think it’s the right price, we will pay it.”
$1 = 0.8599 Euros Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar