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Kelechi Nwakali completes Arsenal move with five-year deal

Kelechi Nwakali starred for Nigeria at the Under-17 World Cup last year.

Arsenal have completed the signing of highly rated Nigerian teenager Kelechi Nwakali on a five-year contract and said he will be sent out on loan for the upcoming season.

The deal has been in the works since January but wasn't formalized until this week, and the club announced on Friday that the 18-year-old Nwakali had joined the academy.

"Kelechi, who joins us as a young professional, will look to gain experience with a loan move in the coming months," Arsenal said in a statement, without specifying where the attacking midfielder would go.

Nwakali led Nigeria to the Under-17 World Cup title last year when he was named player of the tournament, and adds to a crop of talented midfielders in the Arsenal academy.

He is the third young prospect to be signed by Arsene Wenger this summer, following Japan forward Takuma Asano and English centre-back Rob Holding from Bolton.

The deal for Nwakali had originally been set to also include his countryman Samuel Chukwueze, but those negotiations apparently fell through and Nigerian reports have said the talented winger could be headed for Porto instead.

Nwakali and Chukwueze both played for Nigeria's Flying Eagles this summer in qualifying for next year's Under-20 African Nations Cup.

Because of international transfer rules, Arsenal had to wait until Nwakali turned 18 in June before being able to officially sign him, and the deal was held up further by paperwork and the midfielder's international commitments.

A source had told ESPN FC in March that a deal had already been agreed in principle, with Nwakali signing a pre-contract for a five-year deal.

While this is Arsenal's fourth signing of the transfer window, Granit Xhaka remains the only big-name recruit who is expected to have an immediate impact on the first team.

However, Wenger has made it clear that the London club remains "very active" in the transfer market and wants to sign both a new forward and an experienced centre-back who can fill in for the injured Per Mertesacker.

Also on Friday, Arsenal sent academy centre-back Julio Pleguezuelo on loan to Mallorca, while Stefan O'Connor joined Dutch club MVV Maastricht for the season.

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.


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