Arsene's £70m Madrid swoop: Race against time to land Benzema, Di Maria and Ozil
Arsenal want to blow their entire £70million transfer budget on Real Madrid trio Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria as they bid to rescue a botched summer window.
Arsenal – whose need for reinforcements became desperate on Thursday when they were handed a very tough Champions League draw – have opened talks with Real chiefs over the triple swoop and received encouragement.
Despite all three players insisting they want to stay at the Bernabeu, Real will listen to offers for the trio as they look to balance the books after committing £86m to signing Gareth Bale from Tottenham.
Swoop: Arsene Wenger is planning a £70m raid for Real trio Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria
Gunner go? But Benzema (left), Di Maria (right) and Ozil (below) have all said they want to stay at Real Madrid
Securing a deal for long-term target Benzema is Wenger’s priority, such is his desire to capture a world-class centre forward.
The Gunners are working frantically on a deal that could see all three arrive at the Emirates by the transfer deadline on Monday.
Arsenal confirmed the re-signing of midfielder Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer and have also been offered former Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou.
However, there are fears within the corridors of power at the Emirates that they will not be able to land any of the high-profile targets before Monday — a possibility that will anger supporters. A summer that promised so much has produced very little and manager Arsene Wenger is facing a make-or-break four days.
With the deadline fast approaching there is concern that Arsenal will run out of time to complete the Real deals, particularly with the Madrid club highly reluctant to sell before Gareth Bale’s move is ratified.
Wenger also remains interested in Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye and Valencia keeper Vicente Guaita.
His need to sign at least one forward heightened yesterday after Germany’s Lukas Podolski was ruled out for up to 10 weeks with a hamstring injury. Lukas Podolski was carried off in Tuesday’s 2-0 Champions League win over Fenerbahce with a hamstring strain.
The club’s medical team initially thought the former Cologne frontman would miss around five weeks. But Wenger has confirmed the injury is worse than first feared, with Podolski now set to miss more than two months.
There was better news on the injury front for Aaron Ramsey (groin) and Jack Wilshere (ankle), who have both been passed fit for Sunday’s clash against bitter rivals Spurs.
Likewise, Flamini is also in contention to make his second Arsenal debut against Andre Villas-Boas’s side this weekend after completing his move.
Flamini, who has been training with Arsenal since his release by AC Milan, and his representative Darren Dein held talks at the club’s London Colney HQ on Monday to finalise a contract.
Old new boy: Mathieu Flamini has re-signed for his former club
The French midfielder has signed a three-year deal worth around £40,000 a week.
Flamini’s versatility was key in Wenger’s decision to bring him back to the Emirates after he left on a free transfer in 2008. He can play anywhere across the midfield and also be used as a back-up full back.
Meanwhile, Real vice-president Fernando Fernandez Tapias has accused Tottenham of ‘dragging their feet’ over the Bale deal amid the embarrassing possibility that they will have to dismantle the stage they erected at the start of the week if Bale does not sign in the next 48 hours.
Real have a match on Sunday and the stage currently blocks the view of the pitch from the directors’ box.
'Dragging their feet': Spurs have been accused of delaying Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid
Speaking ahead of the club’s friendly in Coruna, Tapias said: ‘He (Bale) is not here, because there are problems there (in London).
‘We thought Bale was going to be with us by now but for the moment he is still not in Madrid.’
Madrid wanted Bale to play a part in Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off against Athletic Bilbao but Tottenham’s insistence on making Real Madrid wait until their transfer business has been completed now endangers that possibility and the player may have to be presented on Monday or even after the international break.
Real agreed to allow Tottenham to complete their summer business before sealing the Bale deal but did not imagine this would push the conclusion back towards deadline day. If Bale does not make his home debut on Sunday, he will not play in front of Madrid fans for another three weeks.
If he signs at the start of next week he will leave for international duty immediately and will not be able to play his first game until September 14 away to Villarreal.
In action: Real Madrid had haboured hopes of unveiling Bale in the friendly against Real Madrid on Thursday night, but he may not even be at the club in time for the match against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday
He would not be able to train with the rest of his team-mates until September 11 and coach Carlo Ancelotti is concerned that having missed an entire pre-season with the club, and only played in one of Tottenham’s summer friendlies, it could be a month before the player is properly integrated into his side.
Madrid have suggested markers have been moved during the course of negotiations and Tapias said of the last-minute glitches: ‘We are going to wait and see what happens. Sometimes it is yes, sometimes it is no. They are dragging their feet.
‘I don’t doubt the value of the player but Real Madrid (already) has a great team.’
Delay: If Bale does not sign this before this weekend Carlo Ancelotti will have to wait until after the international break on September 11 to have Bale train with his team-mates