While Arsene Wenger remains coy about Arsenal’s transfer plans, one club director has boldly stated that any player in the world, bar Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, is within their reach, and a top striker is being eagerly pursued. With just over a week until they face Chelsea in the traditional curtain-raiser of the English season, the Community Shield, Arsenal have added only goalkeeper Petr Cech to their squad. Wenger’s message has continued to be that, while not ruling out further arrivals, the stability of his squad, and no longer being compelled to sell off key players, is now their biggest strength.
However, a different tone was struck by director Lord Philip Harris, who boasted that the club’s financial resources now meant almost any player was a realistic target.
“Money was tight when we moved to the Emirates but it's a lot freer now,” he told the Daily Mail. “We could go into the market and probably buy any player in the world, apart from half a dozen who are un-buyable. In the accounts, there's over £200 million in the bank. You could say to Arsene we've got no money and he wouldn't worry, or you could give him £100 million and he might not spend it.
“At the moment, there are no plans to sign anyone, unless he finds a real superstar like Mesut Özil or Alexis Sánchez. He's looking for one of those but there aren't many available. We would back him to break the club's transfer record. If he wanted the man, he could have him. Apart from Messi and Ronaldo, he could have any player. We will probably have to break the club record to get the man he wants.”
It has been in the striking department where Arsenal have been strongly linked with strengthening their squad in recent weeks. And Lord Harris confirmed that a forward was on Wenger’s wanted list, as well as providing a strong hint as to the identity of the primary target.
“We get a list of the players that Wenger wants,” he said. “On the list is a centre forward, but I'm not going to tell you who he is. You've got to get the other team to want to sell him, but I think he wants to come. It basically comes down to whether the other team can find a superstar to replace him, because they don't have to sell.”
His comments strongly suggest that, as frequent rumors have claimed, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema is that man being sought. Reports in Spain have suggested that Benzema could be a less integral part of the side under new manger Rafa Benitez, with Cristiano Ronaldo potentially moving into the role of striker and the club also eying up Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero. Yet the message from Benzema’s camp continues to be that the France international will not be going anywhere this summer.
“Karim is very happy at Real Madrid and he will be a Real Madrid player by the end of this transfer window, 1,000 per cent,” Benzema’s agent Karim Djaziri told Sky Sports. “Karim is not looking to move anywhere this summer.”
Given that Benzema has been linked with a move away for the last several summers, is a favorite of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and the Spanish giants have little hope of prizing Aguero away as his replacement, Arsenal may be frustrated in their attempts to sign the 27-year-old. Rumors suggest that Benzema is not the only striker in Wenger’s thoughts.
The Sun reports that Arsenal are also considering an £ 8 million transfer for Juventus’ Fernando Llorente. The Spanish target man looks set to leave the Italian champions this summer following their signing of forwards Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Simone Zaza. Interestingly, the former Athletic Bilbao star has also been linked with Real Madrid. He would, though, be a strange signing for Arsenal. The 30-year-old is similar in style to Arsenal’s current first-choice striker Olivier Giroud and, arguably, at least at this stage of his career, no improvement on the France international.
Another unlikely forward target has been offered up by the Daily Star. The tabloid claims that Arsenal are battling it out with Tottenham to sign West Brom’s Saido Berahino. Although the 21-year-old has obvious potential, it has so far been somewhat inconsistently applied, while his attitude has been called into question on more than one occasion.
Arsenal surely need proven top-class quality up front rather than more potential right now. One man who might provide that is Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The lightning quick Gabon international, who can also play in a wide position, scored 25 goals in all competitions last season for a struggling Dortmund team. Understandably, then, Dortmund have insisted that the 26-year-old will not be going anywhere, despite reports of a 40 million euros (£28.3 million) bid from Arsenal. And the Gunners could now have a further obstacle in the way of securing Aubameyang, with France Football reporting that both Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham are also keen on the former Saint-Etienne man.