Rio Ferdinand makes feelings clear on Arsenal target Joao Palhinha

Arsenal are among a clutch of clubs said to be keen on Fulham’s Joao Palhinha, who has proven to be one of the signings of the season. And Rio Ferdinand has become the latest expert to gush with praise for the midfield destroyer who could yet be patrolling the pitch at the Emirates on a weekly basis next term.

Portugal international Palhinha has established himself as the best tackler in the Premier League in his debut campaign with the Cottagers. He has completed 114 tackles, at least 25 more than any other player in the division and at an average of more than four per game.

Other stand-out players renowned for breaking up play include fellow Arsenal targets Moises Caicedo (89 tackles) and Declan Rice (72), who are well adrift of Palhinha’s numbers. While the Gunners’ own midfield anchor Thomas Partey has performed excellently this term but is likewise far behind on 64.

And Ferdinand has labelled Palhinha, who Fulham signed from Sporting Lisbon for just £20million last summer, a “dream” for centre-halves as he showered the player with praise. He said on BT Sport when discussing the art of winning possession: “The thing is it’s not necessarily a skill that kids nowadays are even talking about because it’s not Instagrammable.

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“It’s a skill that’s definitely needed in the game and needs to be looked at and honed. It doesn’t happen overnight, you’ve got to practice. From a centre-half’s point-of-view, he’s the perfect foil. You need someone like that in front of you.

“When you’ve got someone who’s defensive minded in that position ahead of you, it’s another layer of delay. You can stop things at source before it even gets to me. Centre-halves must dream of having a player like him.”

Ferdinand’s comments echoed Steve Sidwell’s who hailed Palhinha – also linked to Liverpool – as “utterly sensational” and said: “I think he can [play at a higher level]. He’s probably the signing of the season in terms of all the signings there’s been throughout this year.

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“He’s 27, he’s got to be looking and thinking, if I want to start achieving things now, the last few years of my career are his prime as well. He’s got a great size, a good engine, and he just loves doing that role.”

Fulham boss Marco Silva only last month declared that the brilliant Palhinha is however “happy” at Craven Cottage. He added: “It is impossible to control what people write. Whether it is managers or players are linked with clubs, or if there is interest.

“To be honest, it is something that we don’t lose time thinking about these situations. With Joao it is the same.” It is expected any move for Palhinha would cost at least £40m, though the lure of Champions League football at Arsenal could prove tempting.

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