AC Milan are planning a January move for Udinese defender and reported Arsenal target Mehdi Benatia, according to Calcio Mercato.

The 25-year-old Moroccan international made 27 appearances in Serie A last season, helping the Bianconeri to punch above their weight and finish third in the table.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is a known admirer of Benatia's, and has continued to monitor his progress in Italy, as he weighs up a bid to bring him to the Emirates Stadium.

However, Arsenal's hopes of securing the player's signature have now been dealt a significant blow, after it emerged that Milan are also keen on doing a deal for the African.

Benatia is under contract at the Stadio Friuli until 2017, so Udinese will not be forced into a sale of one of their main assets. But, if the club is open to letting him leave, then they could use the widespread interest as a bargaining tool to drive up the transfer fee.

The centre-back was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United at the start of 2012, with Benatia admitting that it was flattering to be linked with Old Trafford.

"To be linked with Manchester United is a dream come true," he said back in February. "They are the biggest club in the world, they have fans everywhere and to have a chance to play at Old Trafford would be amazing, believe me."

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