Arsenal are seemingly pursuing a deal for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema this summer, although compatriot Antoine Griezmann claims the club could have recruited a far cheaper option of comparable talents had they permanently re-signed Carlos Vela.
THE SAME LEVEL
Vela has performed to distinction since leaving Arsenal for Real Sociedad, on loan initially, with the Mexican able to score 42 league goals during his three seasons at the Anoeta. This season alone Vela registered 16 strikes in La Liga, along with 12 assists, with this goals tally only one shy of Benzema.
Real Sociedad forward Griezmann, currently on World Cup duty with France, has played with both players and does not believe that Benzema, although more esteemed, is necessarily deserving of a higher status than Vela.
When asked by ESPN Mexico if Vela is and Benzema are of equal standing, Griezmann responded: “Yes, I think he is at Benzema's level.”
Arsenal are reported to have made an approach for Benzema with Arsene Wenger prepared to pay £30 million in order to confirm the player’s acquisition, with the Gunners boss having identified the signing of a proven striker as a summer priority.
Benzema has scored 111 times for Real Madrid since joining from Lyon five years ago, and has been able to establish himself among the elite central forwards in European football. His future, however, is unclear given that he has only a season remaining on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.
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THE VELA SITUATION
Given Vela’s impressive performances for Real Sociedad, in particular in the recently concluded club campaign, Arsenal moved in recent weeks to activate a contractual stipulation they had written into the player’s contract following his departure from the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal negotiated a clause that would allow them to buy back Vela at just €3.2 million, and informed Real that they would do so this summer. This was confirmed by the Real president, although Arsenal’s intention was not to welcome Vela back among their number but rather sell him on for a profit.
It would now appear Arsenal have agreed a deal that will see Vela return to San Sebastián on a permanent basis in a £8.8 million transfer, while the total cost of the deal will rise to €20 million including the player’s salary.
BENZEMA OR VELA?
Although the stats from this season at least place Vela and Benzema on a similar footing, the latter is able to offer Arsenal what they crave, whereas their former charge does not fulfil Wenger’s recruitment criteria for this summer.
Vela is an undoubted talent but is significantly more effective as a wide player, with 11 goals and 10 assists coming from the right flank this term, and is not the centre-forward the Gunners require right now, and have done for some time.
Arsenal already have numerous players able to operate in Vela’s position, and Wenger realises the Mexico international would not provide him with anything not already at his disposal.
Benzema, meanwhile, played 46 of his 48 games for Real Madrid this season as the focal point of the attack - and his natural talent to perform in this position makes the 26-year-old a far more suitable option than Vela, even if Griezmann rates them at the same level.