Arsenal are ready to spend up to €30 million (£22m) on Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Lars Bender as Arsene Wenger prepares for another summer of investment, reports Mundo Deportivo.
The Spanish newspaper published a story claiming Bender had emerged as a surprise target for Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu. He will promise to bring the tough-tackling German to the Nou Camp as part of his election campaign.
Further down the article, they also claim that Wenger is ready to put a fly in Bartomeu's ointment by making the significant offer this summer. Arsenal are named as the only significant rival to Barcelona in the race for Bender's signature.
The man Arsenal need?
Bender, 25, has been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium for several successive seasons. A combative midfielder, he has the physical presence that Arsenal have been accused of lacking ever since Patrick Vieira and maybe Gilberto departed the club.
Those reports were at their strongest last summer, but a serious thigh injury, one which would rule him out of the World Cup, may have forced Wenger to wait that little bit longer. He was out until September with that injury but has since fought hard to regain full fitness.
Back to his best
He has since made 24 starts for Bayer Leverkusen this season, reinforcing suggestions that he will be drawing interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs once again. If he can stay fit, a move to Arsenal seems more likely than ever.
Barcelona, of course, are usually a more attractive proposition than Arsenal, but the La Liga outfit will be unable to register Bender until January 2016. A transfer ban inflicted by Fifa does not prevent Barcelona from signing players this summer, but it would mean Bender would not be able to play for the first half of the season.
Realistically, Barcelona would have to agree a deal in the summer before allowing Bender to rejoin Leverkusen on loan. That may not be enough for Bender, who could alternatively join Arsenal where several of his international team-mates are flourishing.
Bad news for Francis Coquelin
If he does join Arsenal, it would be had news for Francis Coquelin, who has worked so hard to force his way back into Wenger's plans. On loan at Charlton Athletic and out of contract this summer, no one could have predicted the 23-year-old's transformation to Arsenal's anchorman.
However, while Coquelin has been impressive, there is a feeling that this purple patch will eventually wear off. If Wenger is serious about signing Bender as this report suggests, he is obviously of a similar opinion.
MORE NEWS FOR ARSENAL FANS
Arsene Wenger's latest interview with Arsenal's in-house magazine is all about the the player everyone is talking about: Alexis Sanchez.
The new darling of north London has wowed the crowd since his summer arrival from Barcelona and Wenger believes a mixture of desire to join the club and a versatile playing style has helped him settle.
“Alexis has played in Italy, in Spain and he moved clubs - that of course helps,” the manager told the Arsenal Magazine. “The second part is that the move is a reward for what he really wanted.
“Alexis had a few options and he chose us because he felt that’s where he wanted to go. Sometimes a player moves somewhere and it’s not the choice that he deeply wanted. In his case, I think he really wanted to join us.
Lewandowski move on the cards
Dietmar Hamann believes Lewandowski could leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season and the former Liverpool man thinks he would be perfect for Arsenal. The Polish striker was made to sit on the bench in their 0-0 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk and Hamann suggests that all is not well between Lewandowski and Pep Guardiola.
He told Sky Sports: “At the moment United, Liverpool and even Arsenal... Lewandowski is tailor-made for them.
“He came to Bayern Munich on a free last year but if there was an opportunity to get him out I’d break the bank for him because I think he’s the best No. 9 in the world.”
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