The 22-year-old previously looked set to relocate to Lancashire with Burnley reportedly agreeing a £2m deal with the Gunners following the Northern Irishman’s impressive performances in the Championship last season.
However, that deal fell through and this has allowed the likes of the Lions and league rivals Blackpool and Sunderland to swoop for him, with all three reported to have been interested in securing his services.
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But the Black Cats would prefer a loan deal at this stage and with Mikel Arteta’s side seemingly ready to sell him, that may potentially put them at a disadvantage in this race.
The Lions, on the other hand, have been willing to fork out transfer fees on different players this summer already, paying a club-record fee for Zian Flemming and also sealing agreements for George Honeyman and Benik Afobe.
Ballard doesn’t look set to make a fresh move to The Den though, even though he played a big part in helping Gary Rowett’s side concede just 45 goals in 46 league games during the last campaign.
Instead, they are hopeful of getting a temporary deal for Leeds United’s Charlie Cresswell over the line.
The centre-back area is certainly one they need to address and not just because Ballard and former captain Alex Pearce have left – but also because Maikel Kieftenbeld has departed The Den.
The Dutchman was a decent figure to have in front of the defence and if they want to give themselves the best chance of being strong defensively once again next season, they have to recruit well during the summer.
Picking up the Arsenal man last summer was smart and because of this, it came as no surprise when he was linked with a return because this could have been an ideal agreement for all parties.
The Lions had the capacity to make his stay a longer-term one judging by their spending this summer and there’s every chance he would have become much more valuable both on the pitch and financially in the coming years.
And for the player, he would have had the chance to return to a familiar setting and wouldn’t have had to move away from the English capital, so it may be a blow for him to hear that he isn’t going to return.