The Gunners still want to sign the Real Madrid striker in a £45m deal but there is a growing acceptance in north London that the Spanish giants will refuse to sell
By Greg Stobart
Arsenal have not given up on a £45 million deal to sign Karim Benzema, but there is a growing acceptance that Real Madrid will stick to their word and refuse to sell the striker this summer.
The Gunners have been hoping to conclude a move for Benzema in the final weeks of the transfer window in a similar manner to the £42m deadline-day signing of Mesut Ozil from Madrid two years ago.
Arsenal will continue to push for Benzema and believe the 27-year-old would be interested in a switch to London having been made aware that the club would be willing to offer him around £150,000 per week.
While Arsene Wenger has publicly played down his attempts to sign Benzema, the club have been working for months behind the scenes on a potential deal for the France international.
Arsenal’s plan has always been to wait until the end of the transfer window in the belief that Real Madrid would change their stance.
But their hopes are diminishing, especially with no sign of Madrid signing another striker to potentially replace the Frenchman this summer. The Spanish giants also insist they have no need to sell the former Lyon star to balance the books, even if they conclude a deal for David de Gea.
*Benzema’s La Liga stats 2014-15
There have been several suggestions that Benzema will have a reduced role under Rafael Benitez, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale both likely to play more minutes in central positions this season.
But los Blancos insist Benzema remains a key part of their plans and, crucially, he is a favourite of president Florentino Perez, who brought him to the club from Lyon in 2009.
Arsenal’s initial budget for a bid was £35m but they would now be prepared to spend as much as £45m to bring him to north London.
Yet the constant message from the Spanish capital has been insistent that Benzema, who is under contract until 2019, will stay at the Santiago Bernabeu for at least another season.
Wenger has identified Benzema as the kind of “exceptional” talent to improve his FA Cup winners and lead the line for Arsenal as they target a first Premier League title since 2004.
The Arsenal manager has long been a massive admirer of the France international and believes he is capable of leading his side to the title, especially in a team where he does not have to play second fiddle to Ronaldo and Bale.
Wenger has declined this summer to make moves for the likes of Jackson Martinez, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain in the hope that Benzema would become available.
Arsenal have always known that their ambitious move for Benzema would be difficult to conclude and Wenger is understood to be happy with his forward options if he cannot land an A-list striker.
Olivier Giroud has started as the Gunners’ lone forward for their first two Premier League fixtures of the season and scored a superb scissor kick in the 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Wenger prefers to play with one central striker and also has Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck who can operate in that role.