Just four weeks remain in the summer transfer window, and Arsenal have yet to make a splash signing for a top-level forward or defensive midfielder. Long-time target Karim Benzema has been linked to the Gunners in recent weeks, and there has been plenty of speculation about his status this summer under new manager Rafael Benitez.
Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, another forward linked to a summer move to the Premier League, are both being held out of Real Madrid’s two friendlies after picking up injuries in training. With Real Madrid’s active pursuit of Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea sparking curiosity about what assets Real Madrid would sell off, it seemed as though Ronaldo, 30, and Benzema, 27, were candidates to exit the Santiago Bernabeu in a possible overhaul of the club under Benitez.
Benzema seemed to be the far more realistic option. According to Metro, Arsenal were set to offer Real Madrid over £45 million, a figure that would shatter Arsenal’s transfer record. Benzema, whose contract expires in 2019, would be reunited with former Real Madrid playmaker Mesut Ozil, who cost Arsenal more than £42 million in 2013. To many, Benzema would appear to be a perfect fit. Arsene Wenger often favors French players, and Arsenal could use another forward to add healthy competition for starter Olivier Giroud and inconsistent reserve Danny Welbeck.
But Wenger, Benitez, and Benzema’s agent Karim Djaziri have quelled any thought that the Frenchman was leaving Spain for England. And all three made sure to not mince words.
“My answer is that I think Benzema is going to stay with us,” Benitez told reporters on Monday. “I'm very happy with him. There's no reason to think that he's going to go."
On Sunday, Wenger basically shunned the idea that Arsenal had landed Benzema.
“No, nothing is happening. Honestly, no. I don't know who brings that up. Is it Spanish media or English media? I don't know,” Wenger said.
On July 24, Djaziri was even more emphatic than the two managers about Benzema’s status.
“Karim is very happy at Real Madrid and he will be a Real Madrid player by the end of this transfer window, 1,000 percent,” Djaziri told Sky Sports News. “Karim is not looking to move anywhere this summer.”
So where does that leave Arsenal? Wenger has stated that he could add a top player if one becomes available, essentially confirming he is satisfied with the current squad.
The Express recently reported that Barcelona holding midfielder Sergio Busquets is an Arsenal target. But it seems a bit far-fetched to both believe Barcelona are willing to part with their stalwart and Arsenal would pay more than £120,000 a week in wages for a defensive midfielder when Francis Coquelin has performed quite well at the position. A more plausible option might be Juventus forward Fernando Llorente, 30, who is valued at about £8 million, to strengthen the depth of the attack.