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Perez key to Arsenal's Benzema bid

GOALEXCLUSIVE    By Greg Stobart and Alberto Pinero     Follow on Twitter
Arsenal are lining up an ambitious summer bid for Real Madrid star Karim Benzema - but could see their hopes of luring the France international to the Emirates frustrated by Florentino Perez.

Goal has learned the Gunners believe Benzema would be interested in a move to north London if the club are able to agree a deal, hoped to be around €50 million, with Madrid.

The sticking point, however, is likely to be Perez with the Madrid president known to be a huge fan of the former Lyon man. Benzema is also extremely popular with his Bernabeu team-mates who appreciate his work-rate and willingness to grant the limelight to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

Monday's coaching change at the Spanish giants will give Arsenal encouragement though. Former boss Carlo Ancelotti viewed Benzema as a key cog in his first-choice starting XI but it remains to be seen whether his successor - likely to be Rafael Benitez - shares the same faith in a player who scored 22 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions in 2014-15.

Arsenal announced that they had cash reserves of €196m in their last financial accounts and can easily afford to sign Benzema as their marquee summer arrival having brought Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to the Emirates Stadium in the last two years.

Arsene Wenger wants to sign a top class striker as he prepares Arsenal for a title challenge next season following their third-placed finish this year.

He tried to sign Luis Suarez from Liverpool in 2013 and believes Benzema, 27, is capable of firing Arsenal to their first Premier League triumph since 2004. Wenger is a huge admirer of the France international and tried to sign him before he joined Real Madrid from Lyon in 2009.

Arsenal are understood to be ready to listen to offers for Olivier Giroud to make room for Benzema, with French champions Paris Saint-Germain closely monitoring the 28-year-old’s situation.

Wenger is targeting three signings to mount a title challenge next season and also wants a goalkeeper and defensive midfielder.

Petr Cech is considered the perfect choice as the club's new goalkeeper but Chelsea have so far insisted they do not want to sell the 32-year-old to a Premier League rival.

Arsenal will have to pay over the odds to sign Cech while Southampton have quoted €35m for midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin.

Wenger values the France international at around €28m and may look to cheaper alternatives, particularly given Francis Coquelin's excellent from in the second half of the season.