Arsenal have rekindled their interest in signing German international Lars Bender, with Bayer Leverkusen braced to receive a fresh offer of £21m as the Gunners step up their efforts to sign a dynamic, ball-winning midfielder.
Bender has been a target for Gunners boss Arsene Wenger stretching back over 18 months, but Leverkusen have so far held firm and managed to rebuff a £15m offer from Arsenal last summer to keep their midfield linchpin.
Wenger is back again with ready to make a £6m improvement on that initial offer though, according to Metro, who cite French publication Le10 Sport as the source who believe Leverkusen are now willing to talk terms over a deal which could see Arsenal finally land their first major summer signing.
Arsenal's ability to flex their muscles in the transfer market thanks to a £30m, five-year kit deal with Puma is well documented, leading to persistent speculation that Wenger is chasing big names such as Mario Balotelli, Mario Mandzukic and Karim Benzema.
The reality is very different though and Wenger ideally wants four summer signings, a striker to help ease the burden on Olivier Giroud, replacements for Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski, plus a new option in central midfield.
Bender fits the bill on that final count despite being forced out of contention for a place in Germany's World Cup, but can Arsenal get Bayer Leverkusen to part with their best player before the start of next season?
Le10Sport believe that the reason Arsenal have new optimism the deal for Bender's a realistic proposition is because the 25-year-old is desperate for a fresh challenge in the Premier League, marked difference which could help smooth over difficult negotiations.
Bender only signed a new long-term contract with Leverkusen back in October in a deal which lasts until 2019, but try telling that to Arsenal, who are now very confident of adding the versatile star to a cast of German internationals including Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil.
Pressure on for Wenger
Arsenal are not restricted by any World Cup commitments in terms of chasing a deal for Bender, besides Wenger working at the tournament as a pundit for French television.
Gunners fans have been crying out for a more defensive-minded, authoritative midfield option for some time now and Bender fits the bill, but won't come cheap.
Wenger will realise that the likes of Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky must eventually be replaced and Bender does have massive unique selling point in his favour, versatility.
The 17-cap international can play at right-back or further forward on the same flank alongside his preferred holding role, all working towards the view that Wenger is ready to target quality over quantity this summer and get spending in search of Premier League glory.
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