Arsenal target touted as ‘next Gareth Bale’ could spearhead “next level” of Edu rebuild

Edu and Mikel Arteta are planning for the summer transfer window (Image: Offside via Getty Images)

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Arsenal are reportedly accelerating their efforts to sign Bologna prospect Aaron Hickey as the young Scot continues to earn the adulation of the European press.

Hickey, 19, has emerged as a summer target for Gunners technical director Edu as a potential upgrade on Nuno Tavares, who has earned mixed reviews during his debut season in North London. Reports in Italy claim talks between Arsenal and Bologna are imminent and a £17million price tag has been touted.

Such a fee may prove to be a bargain for a player considered one of the most exciting left-backs on the continent who has already been tipped for greatness. At the turn of the year, Hickey was included in an XI compiled of players who are 'set to explode' in 2022 by Spanish outlet Marca.

The 19-year-old appears to be living up to his billing as he has been one of the first names on the team sheet for Bologna, helping them to a respectable mid-table berth in the Serie A with his five goals and performances on the flank. Further, the former Hearts star also made his debut for Scotland in March.

One of Hickey's greatest assets is his versatility and he is comfortable playing on either side of defence and in more advanced roles. As such, it is no surprise Marca drew comparisons between the teenager and Gareth Bale, who started his career as a left-back before developing into a blistering winger for Tottenham and a superstar for Real Madrid.

Edu will be weighing up whether Hickey is indeed a player who can take Arsenal to the "next level" – the goal set by manager Mikel Arteta when this season's January transfer window opened.

Which positions do Arsenal need to strengthen this summer? Have your say in the comments!

Aaron Hickey came up against Arsenal loanee Ainsley Maitland-Niles as Bologna faced Roma earlier this season
(Image: NurPhoto via Getty Images)

"We have to make the right decisions with players that we believe are going to really help us and try to bring in ones that can take us to the next level," Arteta said. "We are certainly trying but I don't know if we're going to be able to do it. Let's see, it's not only our intention, but a lot of facts that are needed to happen.

"Players that come here have to be able to take us to the next level. We already have a level, and we want to see much better standards than we already have, and that is how we're going to recruit." Arsenal did not add any first-team players to their squad in January despite letting 13 bodies depart, so a busy summer of business awaits at the Emirates – and Hickey could be one of its protagonists.