Arsenal to launch £30m move for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema
Arsene Wenger will wait until after the Champions League final before making his move but knows that the France forward only has one year left on his contract
Arsenal will renew their interest in Karim Benzema following the Champions League final after becoming aware that the 26-year-old France striker could be allowed to leave Real Madrid this summer.
Arsène Wenger has failed with several previous attempts to buy Benzema, including last summer, but the Arsenal manager would still regard him as an ideal signing if he does become available.
Benzema has one year remaining on his contract at Real, leaving the Champions League finalists with a major decision as to whether they renew his deal or seek to sell this summer in the knowledge that he would still command a fee in the region of £30million. Much will also depend on whether Madrid themselves are successful in adding a striker, with Liverpool’s Luis Suárez among their principal targets.
Arsenal asked after Benzema when they signed Mesut Özil last summer but Real had already sold Gonzalo Higuaín and Benzema was not keen to move. Real’s immediate focus is the looming Champions League final against neighbours Atlético Madrid but, after that match, Arsenal will inquire as to Benzema’s availability.
Wenger is also pursuing other striker options, including Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic, but has made little attempt to stop two other players he has scouted regularly – Diego Costa and Josip Drmic – from respective moves to Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen.
Arsenal have relied heavily this season on Oliver Giroud, who is also understudy to Benzema in the France team, although Wenger refused to say on Wednesday whether he would start ahead of Yaya Sanogo in the FA Cup final against Hull City on Saturday. Sanogo has been preferred to Giroud in the last three rounds of the FA Cup. Wenger’s main selection quandary is the goalkeeper position although Wenger stressed that Lukasz Fabianksi’s failure to extend a contract that expires this summer would not influence whether he keeps his place ahead of Wojciech Szczesny. Fabianski has started all the previous rounds but Szczesny is the No1 at the club and is regarded as Arsenal’s long-term keeper.
Wenger has also stressed that he would have no qualms about starting Bacary Sagna on Saturday, despite his right-back admitting this week that he was likely to leave the club at the end of the season when his contract expired.
Manchester City or Paris St-Germain are possible destinations. “I don’t doubt his integrity, his desire to win and his commitment at all,” Wenger said. “I have always acted like that because it would basically mean the guys are not professional. I have done that with [Samir] Nasri, with [Robin] Van Persie. If they deserve to play, they play.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also remains a major doubt for the Cup final, with Wenger planning to take a final decision on his availability after training on Thursday.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has been suffering with a groin injury that forced him to be rested completely after the 3-0 Premier League win against Hull City last month, in an effort to avoid surgery and ensure his inclusion in England’s World Cup squad. He returned to training last week – and was again involved on Wednesday – but Wenger is remaining cautious about the prospect of involving him against Hull. If he does not feature on Saturday, he would go into England’s first game of the World Cup finals having not played competitively for seven weeks.
Saturday will be Arsenal’s first appearance in a final since they lost 2-1 in the League Cup against Birmingham City at Wembley three seasons ago. That appeared to be the catalyst for the team to disintegrate, with Cesc Fabregas, Van Persie, Nasri, Alex Song and Gaël Clichy having all since left. With the Birmingham disappointment still fresh in the minds of many Arsenal players, Wenger is certain that there will be no complacency on Saturday against a team who finished only 16th this season in the Premier League.
Wenger also remains adamant that the outcome on Saturday will not influence his intention to extend a contract at Arsenal that also expires his summer. “Our target is to win the trophies but you judge the quality of the teams and their potential over the Premier League results,” he said. “No matter what the result will be, this club – and this is always most important – can deal with the consequences of any game.” But will the added pressure of not having won a trophy since 2005 make triumphing on Saturday more difficult? “A little but, at the end of the day, you don’t play with the history, you play with your quality and your desire to play well,” Wenger said.