Croatia international Josip Sutalo admits Premier League giants Arsenal had “shown interest” in signing him before the defender made a £20million move to Eredivisie challengers Ajax this summer.
It speaks volumes about how highly regarded Josip Sutalo is in his new home in Amsterdam that Ajax manager Maurice Steijn had no qualms about presenting his new centre-back with the captain’s armband on his league debut, as Steven Bergwijn on Sunday at Fortuna Sittard dropped out.
“I just thought ‘Wow’!” Sutalo, who was linked with Arsenal, Napoli, Nottingham Forest and West Ham United before joining Ajax, recounts De Telegraaf.
“I felt honored and knew straight away that I wanted to come to Amsterdam. “I agreed very quickly with Ajax on a contract until the summer of 2028.”
Arsenal sent scouts to watch Sutalo late last season (evening standard). The former Dinamo Zagreb star admits he was also aware of the Gunners’ “interest”, although their admiration didn’t become more concrete when Mikel Arteta’s side opted to go all-in for Jurrien Timber instead.
Ironically, Sutalo now takes Timber’s place at the Johan Cryuff Arena.
Arsenal looked at Josip Sutalo ahead of the Ajax move
“(I moved to the Netherlands) because Ajax were the crucial player of all. Arsenal and Napoli showed interest but didn’t come up with a concrete proposal. Ajax did that, so my decision was made quickly in that regard,” adds Sutalo.
Arsenal will be without their own well-funded centre-back for the next few months; Timber underwent anterior cruciate ligament surgery about 45 minutes after his Premier League game against Sheffield United.
Meanwhile, Sven Mislintat, former Arsenal director at Ajax Amsterdam, is confident that Sutalo has the poise and composure to ensure Timber’s absence from the Dutch capital is not so noticeable.
“A great player for Ajax”, Mislintat bar. “A Premier League club wanted him too, but Josip was clear; he wanted to go to Ajax.
“He never feels uncomfortable on the ball. He is always calm. Definitely a full central defender.
“He can defend. He’s fast, two-footed, can build up the game and play both left and right. If you look at the whole package, if he’s not an Ajax player, then who is?”
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