Arsenal have submitted a second bid for Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo, worth up to £70 million including add-ons.
It is understood that the bid, which came on Sunday night and follows an opening offer of £60 million last week, was swiftly rejected by Brighton, who continue to insist that the 21-year-old is not for sale.
The second approach from Arsenal comes after Roberto De Zerbi, the Brighton head coach, said his team were “ready to go forward” without Caicedo after their victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup.
De Zerbi: 'I can understand when you receive a request from a big team'
De Zerbi’s post-match comments provided the first suggestion that Caicedo could be allowed to leave this month, although the Brighton head coach made it clear that he would still prefer for the midfielder to remain until the end of the season.
“Caicedo is a very good guy,” said De Zerbi. “I can understand him because when you are 21 and you receive the request of a big, big team that is playing in Europe, I can understand.
“I would like that he can finish the season with us, but we are ready to go forward without him. I think we need some players in some positions – I spoke a lot of times with Tony [Bloom, the club’s owner] and he knows very well my opinion. We are a good team but we can also improve from the transfer market.”
Chelsea have also shown interest in Caicedo this month and had a bid of their own, worth £55 million, rejected earlier in January. They could yet decide to compete with Arsenal in the final days of the window, having already beaten their north London rivals to the signing of winger Mykhailo Mudryk this month, but are in talks with Benfica over midfielder Enzo Fernandez.
'I was surprised by Caicedo's statement on Instagram'
Arsenal have already signed one player from Brighton this month, having completed a £21 million move for Leandro Trossard earlier in the window.
“We lost Trossard and if we lose Caicedo it can be a problem for us if we want to fight for Europe, or the maximum [position] on the table,” said De Zerbi. “If we want to stay like this we can, but I don’t like [it].”
Asked if he was surprised by Caicedo’s statement on social media, in which the player said he wanted to “take up this magnificent opportunity”, De Zerbi hinted that he feels the Ecuadorian has been influenced by those around him.
“Yes, I was surprised,” De Zerbi said. “But I can understand where it started. Moises is a good guy.”
Arsenal are hoping to strengthen their midfield in the short and long-term, with the club looking to boost their title hopes by adding Caicedo’s energy for the remainder of this campaign.
The need for a new midfielder at the Emirates Stadium has been made more pressing by an injury to Mohamed Elneny. Key midfielder Thomas Partey also suffered an injury last week, in the FA Cup loss to Manchester City, although it is not believed to be a serious problem.
Arsenal remain keen to sign Declan Rice from West Ham United in the summer and Telegraph Sport understands their pursuit of Caicedo will not prevent them from moving for the England international at the end of this season.