EXCLUSIVE | By Editor

Arsenal did not sign Karim Benzema this summer because the cost of the deal would have been a staggering £91million, Football Insider sources understand.

Arsene Wenger had identified the Real Madrid star as his No1 striker target and spent most of the summer working on a deal to entice the Frenchman to Emirates Stadium.

But the Arsenal manager pulled out a week before the transfer window closed after being put off by the combination of the transfer fee and Benzema’s wage demands.

Sources have told Football Insider that Real wanted £43.8million (€60million) for their striker, who, in turn, requested a five-year contract worth £182,000-a-week (€250,000-a-week) plus bonuses.

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Benzema was tempted by moving to Arsenal, and Real were willing to sell, but the player would only have left the Bernabeu if he had been given a pay rise and if the Gunners had caved in to his demands.

The total cost of the transfer would have been £91million plus performance-related add-ons and would have comfortably topped the deals that enticed Mesut Ozil from Real in 2013 and Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona a year later.

The duo, who are Arsenal’s two top earners after Wenger himself, both earn £130,000-a-week plus bonuses.

Wenger was not put off the transfer fee but was unwilling to sanction what by a long distance would have been the most lucrative contract package in the club’s history for a player who turns 28 in December. He made offers to Benzema’s camp that were rejected.

With the two parties unable to strike a deal, Benzema took to Twitter eight days before the window closed to criticise the “clowns” who had claimed he could end his six-year Real association.

Real star: Benzema was close to joining Arsenal during the summer

Real star: Benzema was close to joining Arsenal during the summer

Wenger subsequently turned to his native France and targeted a £50million double swoop for Edinson Cavani and his Paris Saint-Germain colleague Adrien Rabiot but was unable to agree a deal.

The manager’s failure to bolster his strikeforce with the “exceptional” player he was seeking has prompted criticism, particularly in light of the news that Danny Welbeck has undergone knee surgery.

The England international is expected to be out for between four and six months, which raises further question marks about Wenger’s transfer policy.

The Benzema Arsenal deal also broke down as the club’s newly published financial results reveal they have cash reserves of £193million.