Real Sociedad star Martin Zubimendi has been a long-term Arsenal target and one of the Gunners’ own players has been gushing over the Spanish midfielder.

Kieran Tierney joined the La Liga outfit on loan in the summer and has been able to get an inside view at Zubimendi ahead of a potential blockbuster transfer to the Emirates.

Arsenal could dip into the market for another midfielder at the end of the season, with the futures of Thomas Partey, Jorginho and Emile Smith Rowe all up in the air. Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard may be provided with a new partner and Zubimendi has been ticking all of their boxes.

The 25-year-old has a relatively modest £51million release clause in his contract, but opted to stay at La Real despite significant interest last summer. He wanted to take part in their Champions League campaign, which recently saw them Sociedad 2-0 away to Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their last 16 tie.

Zubimendi played the entire 90 minutes and while Tierney was absent through injury, the Scot has been bowled over by the quality of his team-mates. Zubimendi was one of the few players he namedropped and his words could be heeded by Arteta and Arsenal sporting director Edu.

“Honestly, it’s just crazy,” Tierney told the Guardian. “Look at the managers from the Basque country, the players. It’s some doing, honestly. It must be the culture, how they’re brought up, the way they think about football.

“I was up against Take Kubo in the first couple of weeks training, so to see how sharp he is struck me. You have world-class players like Zubimendi, (Mikel) Merino, Brais (Mendez). It’s not that people don’t think they’re good; it’s just that if you’re only watching the Premier League every week, it’s hard to know. They’re world-class, and for so many to come from the academy is incredible.”

Tierney’s assessment will be music to the ears of Arteta and Edu, after Football.London claimed that Arsenal had taken the lead over Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the race to sign Zubimendi.

A January move was ruled out due to the player’s desire to play in Sociedad’s European campaign and Financial Fair Play concerns, with a summer transfer always the likeliest of options.

Zubimendi’s release clause would make negotiations with his club relatively straightforward. if Arsenal can recoup close to the £45m they initially paid for Partey this summer, coupled with several more outgoings, Zubimendi could be the next arrival to north London after Tierney’s glowing recommendation.