Karim Benzema to Arsenal: Arsene Wenger reveals move for Real Madrid striker is 'not happening at the moment'

Arsenal manager rejects rumours of a £40m move for the France international but does leave the door open to signing an 'exceptional player'

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger has rejected claims that Arsenal are preparing a £40m move for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema and stressed that the deal is "not happening at the moment".

The Gunners are currently on their pre-season tour of Singapore where they will play Everton in the Barclays Asia Trophy on Saturday, but the transfer speculation this morning dominated the headlines as the north London club were linked with a big-money move for Benzema.

The Real striker has been a regular name that has cropped up in the same sentence as Arsenal in recent years, with Wenger known to be a fan of the France international. However, the Arsenal manager was quick to play down any talk of an imminent move and stressed that his current squad, bar an “exceptional player”, is ready to challenge for the Premier League title.

 

"I don't know where that story comes from, but that is not happening at the moment," Wenger said in a press conference in Singapore.

He added: "[The title] is our target and we feel we have a chance in a very competitive league. We are not far [away].

"I am happy with the squad we have. If I find an exceptional player to strengthen, I will do it.

"It depends what's on the market. It is not easy, there are a lot of teams out there in Europe competing for the same player. We don't rule it out and (also) don't guarantee we sign."

The news will disappoint Arsenal fans who are eager to see the club strengthen further this summer. Wenger has so far only signed Petr Cech from rivals Chelsea in a £10m deal, and the club still look to be understrength in defence and attack if they want to realistically challenge for the title come the end of the season.

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Benzema has been linked with a move to Arsenal

One transfer Wenger was willing to discuss was that of his former captain Robin van Persie, who this week sealed a move to Fenebahce after Manchester United agreed to sell him. Wenger believes that the Dutch striker’s departure is a massive blow to the Premier League, and admitted he was one of the most talented players that he has ever worked with during his managerial career.

"He is a huge loss to English football because he is still a great footballer. He was one of the best I ever managed, a man with an exceptional technique,” said Wenger.

"I don't know what happened or why he left Manchester United, but I have to tell you that he is a great loss to the Premier League."

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Old friends Van Persie and Wenger in 2012

Cech missed Arsenal’s 4-0 victory over a Singapore Select XI on Wednesday but looks set to be given his first run out in an Arsenal shirt against the Toffees this weekend, and Wenger believes that the offer of Champions League football was a big factor in persuading the Czech international to the Emirates Stadium.

"I believe he needs to play. He is ready and he will get an opportunity to play in the Champions League,” Wenger said of Cech.

Wenger also praised the emergence of youngsters Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin last season as they broke into the first team when the opportunity presented itself due to injury, with the latter set to seal a new contract with the Gunners.

"He is one of the players who has emerged last year and has had a very good season,” said Wenger.

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Bellerin impressed in a number of performances last season

"Bellerin and (Francis) Coquelin are the two players who were not necessarily planned last season to come out (and be involved in the team), they have to confirm (themselves) this season, and that is always very difficult to produce the same performance in the second season, so that is their challenge.

"But Hector is a very mature, very focused player, and I am confident he will have a good season again."

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