Brighton join Villa in race to sign Arsenal goalkeeper Martínez

Arteta unwilling to guarantee a regular starting position for the Argentinian

Brighton have have joined Aston Villa in the race to sign the Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez, who is understood not to be in the travelling party to face Fulham on Saturday.

Villa have been favourites to land Martínez if he was made available by Arsenal, who are seeking €22m for the Argentinian. They bid €16m this week but Brighton have exceeded their offer and Martínez will not feature at Craven Cottage in the season opener, with transfer talks ongoing.

It means Bernd Leno will start the campaign in goal for Arsenal, who have been unwilling to guarantee Martínez the playing time he seeks. Martínez was a revelation when he deputised for the injured Leno at the back end of last season, helping Arsenal to victory in the FA Cup final, and wants No 1 status after a decade as a deputy or on loan. But Mikel Arteta has been unwilling to guarantee that to either of his keepers and Martínez, 28 and desperate for regular football, now looks certain to leave.

Martínez has been in talks with Arsenal over a new contract but the parties are some way apart, with Villa and Brighton both ready to dwarf the salary on offer. Should Arsenal accept an offer, Martínez would be likely to depart next week.

Newcastle United

Steve Bruce believes Mike Ashley remains committed to helping Newcastle succeed despite the owner's ongoing attempts to sell the club. The manager has revealed the retail tycoon personally "flexed his muscles" to secure the recent signings of Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Jamal Lewis.

While Newcastle’s proposed Saudi Arabian takeover has – for the moment at least – foundered, Bruce insists the recent near £40m spend on the trio suggests the future can still be bright under Ashley’s slightly reluctant ownership.

Although he admits he would almost have certainly lost his job had the Saudis moved in – “a new brush always sweeps clean,” Bruce said – he had mixed feelings about the buy-out’s collapse.

“It was a unique situation. It could have lifted Newcastle straight into the realms of a Manchester City. That’s what the owner’s disappointed in. It would have been great to see this great club compete at the top with City and Liverpool which is what it needs – and everyone wants to see.”

Even so, Bruce was pleased to see Wilson and Fraser – acquired from Bournemouth’s attack – succumb to a combination of Newcastle’s enduring pulling power and Ashley’s financial clout.

“For us to beat off other clubs, especially Aston Villa, for Callum Wilson we needed Mike to flex his muscles which he did to make sure it happened,” he said. “Ryan Fraser, too, had six or seven options so we must not underestimate that. But to play for Newcastle is a big thing for a lot of players. We’ve got a marvellous club.”

Several Newcastle managers have endured difficult relationships with Ashley but, although Bruce has only met the owner “three or four times” there have been no problems.

“He’s been open and transparent,” he said. “With what’s happened to the world with this Covid thing then to go and do what we’ve done in the transfer market has been terrific. It’s lifted everybody. We’ve given everybody a bit of excitement.”

On Wednesday Ashley and his helicopter made a rare appearance at Newcastle’s training ground before taking Bruce, his staff and the squad out to dinner that evening.

“I get on with Mike fine and that’s vitally important,” said Bruce. “I value it that he takes us out to dinner.”

Ashley has also sanctioned the new long-term deals signed by the midfielder Isaac Hayden and reserve goalkeeper Karl Darlow yesterday. “We’re delighted to have tied Isaac and Karl up,” said Bruce, who has sent his central defender Florian Lejeune on loan to Deportivo.

“Playing for Newcastle is still a big draw. It’s a big club players get excited about playing for. When the real world resumes and the supporters come back the new signings will realise what they’ve signed for. It’s a great, great club with unique support.”

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