By Editor Wayne Veysey | Former Evening Standard, Press Association and Goal chief correspondent with 17 years experience of breaking big stories, including exclusives like this
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Karim Benzema came so close to joining Arsenal last summer that he was househunting in an affluent north London suburb, Football Insider sources understand.
Arsene Wenger cooled talk of a fresh move for the Real Madrid striker at his media conference on Friday as he hailed midweek hat-trick hero Olivier Giroud.
But an Arsenal recruitment source has told Football Insider that the manager is still in the market for a striker, although a signing is more likely to be next summer than in the January window.
The Gunners tried to sign Benzema from Real last summer but the deal fell through predominantly due to the Frenchman’s wage demands.
The source told Football Insider that Benzema requested a five-year contract worth £182,000-a-week (€250,000-a-week) plus bonuses, while, in turn, Real wanted a fee of £43.8million (€60million) for their striker.
The 27-year-old sanctioned his representatives to look at houses in the affluent Barnet suburb of Mill Hill, which is close to Arsenal’s London Colney training headquarters.
The move did not materialise due to the finances, as Benzema wanted a contract that would have earned him £3million per year more than Ozil and Sanchez, and elevated into far superior financial position to any other players at the club.
Arsene Wenger had identified the Real star as his No1 striker target and spent most of the summer working on a deal to entice his fellow Frenchman to Emirates Stadium. But the Arsenal manager pulled out a week before the transfer window closed.
A fresh move to sign Benzema is a possibility although the striker has been suspended from the France team until an investigation into his alleged part in a blackmail and sex tape case has been resolved. It is considered unlikely that he will play at Euro 2016 in his homeland next summer.
Meanwhile, Wenger believes that Giroud should be considered among the top strikers in world football.
“I think he’s in that league because he plays for one of the best clubs in Europe and he scores goals,” Wenger said. “If you look at the number of games and the number of goals, you have to give him credit.
“He’s not only a goalscorer, he’s a guy who puts work in for the team. I think he’s among the best strikers in Europe.”