$425m budget for Gunners

Only Messi, Ronaldo out of reach as Wenger gets green light to overhaul transfer record

Arsenal's Mesut Oezil in action during the Barclays Asia Trophy final on July 18. His transfer fee in 2013 broke the club's record price.
Arsenal's Mesut Oezil in action during the Barclays Asia Trophy final on July 18. His transfer fee in 2013 broke the club's record price.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

LONDON • An Arsenal director has confirmed that Gunners manager Arsene Wenger is in the market for a centre-forward and has enough funds to break the football club's transfer record.

Arsenal director Philip Harris claimed that the club have more than £200 million (S$425 million) in their coffers, with "anyone but Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi" within their reach.

"Money was tight when we moved to the Emirates but it's a lot freer now," the 72-year-old told the Daily Mail . "We could go into the market and probably buy any player in the world, apart from half a dozen who are unbuyable.

"In the accounts, there's over £200 million in the bank...

"We would back him to break the club's transfer record. If he wanted the man, he could have him.

  • £42m
    Amount paid by Arsenal for Mesut Oezil in September 2013 to break the club's transfer record

  • £59.7m
    What Manchester United splashed out on Angel di Maria last year - a British record fee

  • £200m
    Arsenal's transfer war chest, according to Gunners director Philip Harris

"Apart from Messi and Ronaldo, he could have any player. We will probably have to break the club record to get the man he wants."

In the summer of 2013, Arsenal paid Real Madrid £42 million for forward Mesut Oezil, making him the most expensive player in the club's history. But Harris said Wenger still wants to strengthen his attacking options.

The Frenchman offloaded Lukas Podolski to Galatasaray this summer, and loaned Yaya Sanogo to Ajax. And Wenger could yet allow Costa Rica forward Joel Campbell to leave the Emirates before the transfer window shuts.

"We get a list of the players that Wenger wants," Harris explained.

"On the list is a centre-forward but I'm not going to tell you who he is. You've got to get the other team to want to sell him but I think he wants to come.

"It basically comes down to whether the other team can find a superstar to replace him, because they don't have to sell."

His comments seem to rule out Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, with whom Arsenal have been heavily linked. The France striker's agent, Karim Djaziri, yesterday insisted the 27-year-old wanted to stay at the Bernabeu.

"Karim is very happy at Real Madrid and he will be a Real Madrid player by the end of this transfer window, 1,000 per cent," Djaziri told Sky Sports News.

"Karim is not looking to move anywhere this summer."

That, however, has done little to quash speculation in the British newspapers that Benzema is still the striker Wenger wants.

Robert Lewandowski, scorer of 24 goals in 47 appearances for Bayern Munich, is also reportedly a target. The £45 million-rated Poland international has previously admitted that he dreams of playing in the Premier League.

Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Juventus' Fernando Llorente, Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani, Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain and Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette are the other strikers who have been rumoured to interest Arsenal.

The Gunners' top hitman last season was Alexis Sanchez, with 35 goals in all competitions.

France striker Olivier Giroud was second (19). According to the Mirror, he has just signed a new three-year deal worth close to £130,000 a week.

The deal, expected to be formally announced shortly, will keep him at the Emirates until 2018.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline '$425m budget for Gunners'. Print Edition | Subscribe