Christian Benteke has cast further doubt on his Aston Villa future by declaring that he could look to force through a transfer this summer and suggested that the opportunity to join Arsenal would be too good to turn down. After a debut season in the Premier League in which he has scored 19 goals, the Belgium international has been linked with many of England’s top clubs, as well as European forces Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid.
Contract negotiations are believed to be ongoing with Benteke’s agent have intimated that Villa will have to dramatically increase the player’s terms in order for him to remain at the club that fought against relegation for much of the season. Yet, Benteke’s comments suggest that more money will not be enough to entice him to stay.
“Of course playing the World Cup in Rio is in my head. But I have no fear of falling out of the team. There is no point in me getting into a tug-of-war with Villa. If the chance comes up for me to join a club like Arsenal, I'm convinced we can reach a compromise where everyone comes out a winner."
Villa manager Paul Lambert, however, was quick to insist that Benteke should not get ahead of himself. “He's got to remember that he's only 22 years of age -- he's got so much to learn,” he said, reports the Guardian. “He's only a kid starting out and he's going to have ups and downs like everybody else. Once he starts to play 400 or 500 games you might think, 'yeah, he's right good player.' Sometimes we've got to have a reality check here. This lad's only been in Britain for 10 months.”
With Villa having signed Benteke for £7 million on a four-year contract last summer, it will take a significant offer, likely in excess of £20 million, to persuade the Midlands club to sell. Arsenal may turn to Benteke, though, with it appearing increasingly likely that they’ll miss out on the signing of Stevan Jovetic. It was believed that the Fiorentina forward was Arsenal’s primary transfer target but the Serie A side have claimed that they have received no approach.
And with the player’s representative stating that Jovetic wants to remain in Italy, a move to Juventus looks on the cards. The Italian champions’ general manager Giuseppe Marotta has hinted that they are interested in Jovetic as well as another reported Arsenal target, Gonzalo Higuain.
“We are evaluating different situation,” he said, according to Tuttosport. “Regarding Jovetic, as with Higuain, he is a great player. But the Montenegrin plays for Fiorentina and we must respect this.”
Arsenal also look set for a battle to land another striking target in Saint-Etienne’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. After scoring 19 goals in Ligue 1 so far this campaign, Arsenal are just one of many clubs across Europe said to be pursuing the 23-year-old. It has now emerged that Aubameyang has been recommended to big-spending Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala by their forward Samuel Eto’o. “Such a proposition obviously makes me think about it,” is how Aubameyang responded to the report in L’Equipe.
Saint-Etienne’s manager Christophe Galtier has admitted that Aubameyang is free to leave, but only for the right price. “[Aubameyang]'s under contract," he said, according to Sky Sports. “He has been given permission to leave, but there is a value attached for that permission to be granted. If I can keep him, then of course I would like to."
Another Ligue 1 player linked to Arsenal is Toulouse defender Serge Aurier. The 20-year-old Ivorian has been cited as a potential replacement for Bacary Sagna. But Aurier has revealed that he has no plans to leave any time soon. “I still have three years left on my Toulouse contract,” he told Sport24. “I feel great here and when I am somewhere, I like to stay. I feel progress every day with coach [Alain Casanova], who loves me. For now, there is no question of leaving. Unless something crazy happens."
Update (12.15 p.m. ET): Christian Benteke’s agent Eris Kismet has dismissed the comments attributed to his client claiming that he was keen to ensure a move this summer. “Christian and I are surprised and disgusted by a story in the Sun newspaper claiming Benteke can do what he wants,” Kismet said.
"He has been misquoted. The true line is that Christian does not want to make a war with Aston Villa. He has called me today from New York and he is disgusted, I have told him not to speak to any media from now on."
"If there is interest, which is normal after the season he has had, no way will problems be made by Christian and myself. That is what he said in the interview!"