Sporting CP are reportedly worried about Ousmane Diomande’s recent downturn in form at the Africa Cup of Nations and fear it could scupper plans to sell the defender for an €80 million fee this summer.
Diomande has a €80m buyout clause in his Sporting contract and had been widely expected to depart the Portuguese Primeira Liga during the next transfer window, with Arsenal one of the clubs linked to him.
Alongside team-mate Goncalo Inacio, Diomande has been one of the leading defenders in Portugal this season, bringing links to some of the biggest clubs in Europe, including reported suitors in the Premier League.
The Gunners, Liverpool and Chelsea have all been mentioned as a potential destination for the 20-year-old centre-back, who signed for Sporting from Midtjylland in Denmark in January 2022.
Having burst onto the scene for Sporting, the Ivory Coast-born defender was called up for the host nation’s Afcon campaign.
He suffered a nightmare start, however, as les Elephants lost to Nigeria in their second group stage game to leave them teetering on the brink of elimination.
Diomande out of the picture
That loss was followed up by yet another defeat, a 4-0 hammering by Equatorial Guinea, though by that stage Diomande had already lost his place in the side.
Ivory Coast scraped through to the knockouts as one of the best third-placed teams and took the decision to sack manager Jean-Louis Gasset after the groups.
Emerse Fae, the former Reading midfielder, took over as caretaker manager and has overseen a remarkable upturn in form.
Ivory Coast are through to the final having beaten Senegal, Mali and DR Congo in the knockout rounds but unfortunately for Diomande, Fae has largely gone with other defenders.
Diomande has been left on the sidelines for the duration of the knockout rounds and Sporting believe his loss of form could have an impact on their potential to cash in come summer.
Evan Ndicka and Odilon Kossounou were first-choice pair until the latter’s sending off against Mali in the quarter-finals and, with the Bayer Leverkusen man suspended for the semis, veteran Wily Boly came into the side.
Numerous Premier League scouts were dispatched to Ivory Coast to watch Diomande in action but he has not played since 18 January.
The report in Record nonetheless states that one of his mooted destination clubs, Arsenal, remain interested in signing him but getting close to achieving his buyout clause could now prove difficult for the Portuguese side.