HENRIKH MKHITARYAN is ready to take a massive Arsenal pay cut — but only if he can remain on loan at Roma for another year.
But Roma are unwilling to match Arsenal’s £22million asking price.
And the north Londoners will not allow him to spend another year away on loan if he has only 12 months left on his contract because that would result in him leaving for nothing in 2021.
That has led to Mkhitaryan’s agent Mino Raiola hinting the player might be willing to sign a new Arsenal deal on around half of his £180,000-a-week wages.
But he would only extend his contract if the Gunners allowed him to remain in the Italian capital for another season.
Mkhitaryan joined Arsenal from Manchester United in January 2018 in a straight swap deal for Alexis Sanchez.
But he has failed to live up to expectations and was allowed to join Roma for a £4m loan fee last summer.
Despite injury problems during the first part of the season, Mkhitaryan has done enough in 20 games for Roma to impress coach Paulo Fonseca.
But they are not prepared to go higher than £14m for a permanent deal.
Arteta is not short of wide options, with Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli all vying for places.
Arsenal’s preferred option remains to sell Mkhitaryan this summer and use the fee to bolster their transfer kitty.
But if they do not get a suitable offer they could be open to another £4m loan deal as long as there is no risk of the player leaving as a free agent.
Meanwhile, Atalanta’s Champions League tie with Valencia has been described as a “biological bomb” which could have infected 40,000 fans with the coronavirus.
The match was played at Milan’s San Siro stadium on February 19 just as the outbreak was beginning to cripple northern Italy. The country is one of the hardest hit on the planet with 69,176 cases and 6,820 deaths up until yesterday.
Atalanta are based in the northern region of Bergamo and its mayor, Giorgio Gori, said: “The match was a biological bomb. At that time we did not know what was happening.
“The first patient in Italy was on February 23. If the virus was already circulating, the 40,000 fans who went to the San Siro stadium were infected.
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“Many watched the game in groups and there were many contacts that night. The virus passed from one to another.”
However, Gori admitted the game — which Atalanta won 4-1 — was not the root cause of the problem.
He added: “The match was not everything because the spark was truly in the Alzano Lombardo hospital, with a patient with unrecognised pneumonia who infected patients, doctors and nurses.”