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Paul Merson: Arsenal could have triggered release clause of £85.5m ace

By Matt Farr

Arsenal legend Paul Merson believes his former club had the resources to buy Antoine Griezmann last summer.

Merson, who spent much of his professional career at the Gunners, claims that not pursuing a move for the highly sought-after France international was an error by Arsene Wenger.

Atletico Madrid remain reluctant to sell their star man, who has been named on the three man shortlist for this year’s Ballon d’Or award.

Back in August, the Sun claimed Griezmann had a release clause in his contract of £85.5 million.

However, that fee has continued to rise in light of Griezmann’s superb performances this season. The 25-year-old top scored at Euro 2016 with six goals in the summer, and has already registered nine goals and six assists from 19 games in all competitions for Atletico this season.

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Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Chelsea are prepared to rival the Gunners in a move for Griezmann, but former Arsenal man Merson believes that the club already possess the power to prize him away from Spain, and should not have backed down to Atletico’s demands last summer.

He told Sunday World: “They could have bought Antoine Griezmann last summer. After all, everyone has a price.

“Okay, Atletico Madrid might say publicly that he is not for sale but Arsenal have more than £100m in reserves in the bank, so go out and put an offer in that will make them sell him.

“If they started signing top players, proper world-class stars, people would take Arsenal seriously again but that respect is not there at the moment.”

The Gunners targeted a number of high-profile names in the summer, but settled for lesser known talent in Lucas Perez and Granit Xhaka after being priced out by their demands.

Both players have so far proven worthwhile additions to the Gunners squad this season, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can give Arsenal the extra qualities they have been missing in their bid to win their first Premier League title in over a decade.

The long-term futures of star duo Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have also become an area of concern for Wenger, with the club prepared to offer them new deals, but hesitant in meeting their ‘excessive demands’.

However, the addition of Griezmann would give Wenger and Arsenal the statement they need to make in the Premier League and Europe.

The Gunners are currently second in the Premier League after 14 games, and have qualified for the knockout-stages of the Champions League as group winners for the first time since the 2011-12 competition.

In other Arsenal news, Alex Iwobi has shared his thoughts on ending his 18-hour goal drought against Basel.