|French fancy: Benzema would cost Arsenal in the region of £27.5m|
Arsenal will step up their pursuit of Karim Benzema amid suggestions that the striker is ready for a new challenge away from Real Madrid, but manager Arsene Wenger will have to wait until the end of the season if he wants to buy Juventus' £15million-rated Fernando Llorente.
The asking price is thought to be £27.5m for France international Benzema, who has played regularly under Carlo Ancelotti this season and scored in Saturday’s 5-1 win against Real Sociedad.
His contract expires in 18 months and his representatives have been sounding out the possible alternatives, well aware that Arsenal’s interest lingers on from the summer. He would demand a salary of £150,000 a week.
Benzema’s agent Karim Dzajiri has met twice with Galatasaray, who were represented by Muzzi Ozcan, the same London-based agent who brokered their swoop to recruit Roberto Mancini.
They met once in Paris and once in Madrid, and revealed that Real wanted 33m Euros for the 25-year-old striker.
This fee is out of reach for the Turkish champions but not for Arsenal, who would like to sign another centre forward in January to provide cover and competition for Olivier Giroud, as Arsene Wenger attempts to convert what has been very a promising start into a full-scale title challenge.
Wenger’s hopes of a loan deal for Llorente in the New Year always looked doomed, and Juventus chief executive Beppe Marotta confirmed as much by saying: ‘There is no way we would consider letting him go at the moment.’
But such is the mentality at the Turin club that the chance to make a substantial profit on the 28-year-old Bosman signing next summer, and reinvest the money in further new arrivals, may well appeal.
Juve intend getting at least one full season out of him after snapping him up on a free from Athletic Bilbao and waiting patiently for him to adapt to coach Antonio Conte’s punishing training routines.
It took him a while, but he has begun to reap the rewards by scoring important goals and featuring more regularly in the starting line-up, and the Serie A champions are convinced he is now primed to go from strength to strength.
If he does, it could be the cue for Wenger to solve his most pressing problem with a move for a player he has admired for years, as he seeks to reinforce an attack that is currently leaning heavily on Giroud.
He will be encouraged by a long-held belief within Juventus that every player has his price and a growing sense that the chance to make a clear profit of £15m on a player who will be 29 by the end of the season may be too good to turn down.
Llorente arrived in Turin with a reputation as one of Europe’s most accomplished frontrunners, but it cut little ice with taskmaster Conte, who had misgivings over his physical condition and apparent reluctance to track back in games.
He has finally knuckled down and won the approval of Conte and Marotta, who said: ‘He is in good shape, and the club and our supporters are now seeing his true worth.
'He can do even more, and I believe we will see that over the remainder of the season.’
If they do, and Llorente continues to flourish, it could lead to another spectacular transfer coup for Wenger, following a hint from within Juventus that they would be tempted to cash in.
Benzema had been keen to extend his contract at Real but has yet to reach an agreement and, if he is to leave, he prefers the idea of playing in the Barclays Premier League.
He has received good reviews about life at Arsenal from Mesut Ozil, who moved from the Bernabeu to the Emirates Stadium for £42.5m in August.
Real would be unlikely to sell in January without a replacement, which may persuade Wenger to find a short-term alternative if he believes there is a realistic chance of landing Benzema at the end of the season.DailyMail