Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema could be available for a cut-price fee when the January transfer window springs open, with the Spanish giants believed to be weighing up moves for Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Monaco hitman Radamel Falcao. The January sales now transcend retail with football clubs cottoning on to the concept, it would seem.
Rumours suggest that Benzema, who has scored just twice in eight games this season, is not flavour of the month with manager Carlo Ancelotti. And the La Liga outfit may be prepared to cut their losses on the player, for whom they paid Lyon €35million in 2009, and listen to offers in the region of £20m. Radars at Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge will be bleeping.
With Los Blancos shelling out £86m for Bale recently, a sale will almost certainly need to be made in order to facilitate the purchase of another marquee name such as Suarez or Falcao. But the latter is highly unlikely to be going anywhere in January, so Real may turn their attention, in the short term at least, to the Uruguayan in their imminent pursuit of a natural born goalscorer.
Liverpool will be more receptive to the idea of selling Suarez to Madrid than a rival Premier League club – Arsenal were sent packing twice during the summer – but the Reds will put up a fight to keep the 26-year-old at Anfield nevertheless. And Los Merengues presumably won’t want to offload Benzema until they are at an advanced stage of recruiting a replacement, which means any deals probably won’t be concluded until eleventh hour of the transfer window… yet again.
Arsene Wenger approached the Spaniards regarding Benzema prior to luring Mesut Ozil away from the Bernabeu, but it is believed that the Gunners were put off by Madrid’s valuation at the time, £40m. However, Le Professeur is a long-term admirer of the striker and, with Arsenal poised to get the cheque book out during the January sales as they bid to sustain a serious title challenge in the English top-flight and in Europe, Benzema’s name will be at the top of the shopping list.
However, Wenger is unlikely to get a straight run at the France international, as Jose Mourinho is thought to be keen on a reunion with the player who he managed during his tenure at Madrid. While Arsenal need a striker to support Olivier Giroud, the situation at Chelsea is arguably worse still, with Mourinho seemingly not too keen on Demba Ba or Fernando Torres, and summer recruit Samuel Eto’o yet to recapture anything akin to his best form. A tug-of-war for Benzema could ensue.
So what will be Benzema’s destination of choice – north or south west London? It’s an intriguing question. Assuming that his relationship with the Special One in Madrid was a good one – and the fact that the Portuguese is interested in bringing the player to Stamford Bridge suggests it was – that could tilt the scales in the Blues’ favour. Conversely, French players are invariably enthused by the possibility of working under the stewardship of fellow countryman Wenger.
Furthermore, the allure of the Emirates will no doubt be enhanced by the recent arrival of Benzema’s former teammate Ozil, not to mention the presence of a number of fellow Gallic players, including Giroud, Bacaray Sagna, Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Flamini. And if the Gunners are still top of the table come January, the appeal of north London will be all the greater.
Following the international break, Arsenal lock horns with Norwich on Saturday and Chelsea play host to Cardiff City. The London clubs are a top-priced 11/2 with Skybet and 3/1 with Paddy Power respectively to be crowned Premier League champions this season.