Arsenal director Lord Harris claims Arsene Wenger has funds available to break their transfer record on a top-class striker - but who could the Gunners target?
Goalkeeper Petr Cech has been the only signing of the summer but club director Harris says a new striker is "on Wenger's list", and that Arsenal could afford to break the record £42.5m they paid for Mesut Ozil on anyone bar Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
English newspaper reports suggest Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema could be Wenger’s mystery target, and he’s joined on our list by five other stars who could fit the bill as the Gunners look to strengthen their attack.
Benzema’s agent told Sky Sports News HQ this week that the striker is “1,000 per cent” staying at Real Madrid, but speculation linking him with a move to Arsenal is likely to continue until the end of the transfer window. After all, Ozil's dramatic deadline-day move to Arsenal in 2013 shows how quickly things can change at the Bernabeu.
Benzema certainly fits the bill in terms of quality. The Frenchman has scored over 20 goals in all competitions in each of the past five seasons and he has provided a perfect foil for Cristiano Ronaldo at Madrid. What’s more, at just 27 he probably has his best years ahead of him.
Cavani hasn’t quite hit the heights of his Napoli form since joining Paris Saint-Germain in 2013, but a record of 112 league goals over the last five seasons puts him among Europe’s elite. Wenger is a known admirer having admitted he “loves him" back in 2013, and the Uruguayan has long been linked with a move to the Premier League.
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said “Paris loves him and he loves Paris” of Cavani back in April, but the 28-year-old has been coy on the subject of his future. "Football is my passion and who knows where I'll be playing in the future - you can't know,” he said in June. “Whenever football is played, I will be ready to play wherever I have to do it.”
Higuain is another South American striker who boasts considerable European pedigree. The Argentina international was strongly linked with Arsenal during his time at Real Madrid but eventually moved to Napoli, where he has smashed 53 goals in 102 appearances over the last two seasons.
The Gunners would have to break the bank for the 27-year-old, however, with Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis insisting he won’t accept anything less than his £72m buy-out clause. “If a player has a contract this contract has to be respected,” he said. “If a madman arrives and offers to pay his buy-out clause then one must consider it. Otherwise he will remain here."
A total of 31 goals in 38 appearances for Lyon last season brought Lacazette to the attention of Europe’s top clubs. The 24-year-old combines clinical finishing with lightening pace and deft footwork, although he lacks the Champions League experience of the likes of Benzema, Cavani and Higuain.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas recently said it would be a “strategical error” to sell the France international, but the club have so far failed to tie him to a new contract. "Alexandre wishes to be the No 1 and receive the biggest salary at the club, which is absolutely understandable,” said Aulas in June. “That is why we have made him an offer that will see him become the best paid player at Lyon by far.”
Bayern Munich’s Lewandowski is another proven goalscorer in the top bracket of strikers in Europe. The Poland international scored 25 goals in all competitions in his first season with Pep Guardiola’s side following his acrimonious move from Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund, where he scored 94 goals in the previous three seasons.
In February, former midfielder Dietmar Hamann told Sky Sports Lewandowski would be “tailor-made” for a club like Arsenal. “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,” Hamann added.
Another Bundesliga star to have been linked with a move to the Premier League is Dortmund’s Aubameyang. The pacy striker enhanced his reputation with 26 goals in all competitions last season, and he is well known to the Gunners having scored in their 2-0 Champions League defeat at the Westfalenstadion in September.
Reports in the German press suggest Arsenal have already had one bid knocked back, and it seems they would face a major battle to convince Dortmund to sell. "We rely heavily on Aubameyang - that is no secret,” sporting director Michael Zorc told Kicker. "I've heard a lot about this (a transfer to Arsenal) but I can say very clearly that it is blocked for him. He is simply not for sale."