Sokratis Papastathopoulos is edging closer to a return to Italy with Napoli agreeing a €4.5m (£4m) deal, according to RAI.
The Greek centre back joined the Gunners two years ago in a £16m deal from Borussia Dortmund and has played 69 games, the last of which was as a late substitute in the FA Cup final victory over Chelsea.
The 32-year-old has struggled for game time since Mikel Arteta’s arrival in December 2019 and, despite injuries to Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi, failed to make the squad for Saturday’s FA Community Shield triumph over Liverpool.
The imminent arrival of Gabriel Magalhães – who was also a target for Napoli – was set to push Sokratis further down the pecking order and with Arsenal’s centre of defence becoming too congested, departures were always necessary.
Papastathopoulos will reportedly sign a three-year deal worth €2.5m (£2.25m) a year, almost half of what he is currently earning at the Emirates Stadium. It is unclear whether Arsenal have given the defender a pay-out to incentivise a move or if Sokratis was happy to sign for three years with his Arsenal deal set to expire next summer.
Earlier this season he hinted he could be open to leaving due to a lack of playing time.
“I have one more year here but me, I never sit on my contract.
“I don’t care. If I’m not happy, I don’t play enough or the coach doesn’t like me, I don’t care about the contract.
“For me the money is not important, it is important I feel good, I feel happy and the team is happy with me. If not, I take the road and I finish.
“I don’t think about it. I think every day to be happy and help the team and in the end we will see but what I say is that I am not a player who sits on a contract – I don’t need it.”
The move to Naples will see Papa return to Italy where he helped AC Milan lift the Scudetto in 2011, alongside current Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso. He played seven times for the Rossoneri after impressing during his time at Genoa. He will also have a familiar face next to him in defence in the shape of fellow Greek Kostas Manolas.
Sokratis’ arrival is set to allow Napoli to finalise the sale of Kalidou Koulibaly to Manchester City while Shakhtar Dontesk defender Mykola Matviyenko – a player that Mikel Arteta reportedly wanted in January – could also arrive at the San Paolo.
Meanwhile, Rob Holding is expected to follow Sokratis out of the door on a season-long loan to Newcastle United.