Premier League • England

Talks underway as Arsenal consider terminating flop’s deal to sell him back to former club

Nuno Tavares in Marseille kit

Nuno Tavares is being linked with a return to Marseille

Midway through an unsuccessful loan spell at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal defender Nuno Tavares has become a January target for Marseille, according to reports in France.

If that kind of link sounds familiar, then there’s good reason. Of course, Tavares has already left Arsenal for Marseille once before, moving to the French side on loan last season. The 39 appearances he made there represented the busiest season of his career so far.

However, they didn’t keep him on board, which led Arsenal to send him to Nottingham Forest next for the current campaign (potentially with the aim of building up his Premier League experience).

Whereas last season was his busiest, this one is on course to be his least productive. He has only played five times for Forest so far.

There have been rumours that Arsenal could look to sell him elsewhere if an appropriate offer arrives. Now, reports in France indicate that Marseille could come calling again.

After sending Tavares back to Arsenal, Marseille took Renan Lodi from Atletico Madrid in the summer. However, they have already sold the Brazilian to Al Hilal in the Saudi Pro League.

Therefore, they are in the market for a left-back again. According to L’Equipe, they are now in talks about the idea of taking Tavares back.

Whether those talks have been with Arsenal or are only internal at this stage is not entirely clear.

However, there is a belief that Tavares would be one of the easiest targets to acquire from their shortlist, even though it would mean interrupting his loan spell at the City Ground too.

Presumably, Forest might not have too many objections to saying farewell to a player they have barely used, either under Steve Cooper or Nuno Espirito Santo.

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And there doesn’t seem to be a future for Tavares back at the Emirates Stadium either, even when Arsenal are dealing with a shortage of players in his position.

They usually prefer Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back, but he is currently injured. Natural alternatives are lacking after Tavares and Kieran Tierney were sent out on loan (to Marseille and Real Sociedad respectively) in the summer.

Usually, in the absence of Zinchenko, Mikel Arteta would have to deploy right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu on the opposite side of defence (but he is currently at the Asian Cup with Japan) or centre-half Jakub Kiwior (who has generated interest from other clubs just 12 months after he arrived from Spezia) in a wider defensive role.

It speaks volumes about Tavares’ future that Arsenal would be willing to recall him not to use for themselves, but to sell to another club.

Besides, he is only under contract until the end of next season, which means this year would be the ideal time to sell while they can.

Arsenal spent £8m to sign Tavares from Benfica back in 2021. Since then, he has only made 28 appearances for his parent club, all of which came in his debut season.

He only scored once for Arsenal as well, whereas at Marseille he was more efficient with six goals. Of course, as a full-back, it isn’t his main concern, but it is a nice added bonus showing how he could have more of an influence in Ligue 1.

According to L’Equipe, Tavares would be open to changing clubs this month and possibly turning his back on Arsenal altogether.

In his current situation at Forest, Harry Toffolo has generally been preferred to him at left-back. Ola Aina and Neco Williams, who are both right-footed, have also played there on occasion.

Can Arsenal make a profit on Tavares?

Arsenal, who are believed to have received a loan fee from Forest for Tavares £1m, will be hoping his market value has not dropped too much from their original investment.

Reports suggested they allowed Forest to have an option to buy Tavares for an initial £12m, which – although almost certain not to be activated – implies they thought they could make a profit on him a few months ago.

With any luck, they might still be able to, especially considering they didn’t pay too much for him to start with and could sell him to a club who have seen how valuable he could be in their own system.

Time will tell if Tavares does secure his return to Marseille. When it was originally revealed this month that he could be sold by Arsenal, the other players revealed to be at risk were fellow full-back Cedric Soares (now becoming a major target for Besiktas in the Turkish Super Lig) and midfielder Mohamed Elneny (who is out of contract at the end of the season).

As things stand, though, Arsenal are still waiting to conduct their first January transfers, either in or out.