Arsenal director Lord Harris has backed Arsene Wenger to break the club transfer record on a new centre forward, with the long-serving board member revealing funds are available to sign ‘anyone but Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’.
Real Madrid star Karim Benzema is understood to be top of Wenger’s wanted list and Lord Harris, who closely monitors the north London side’s finances, has told Sportsmail there is a healthy balance of more than £200million in the club’s accounts.
Harris admits that the development of the Emirates Stadium previously limited spending power but feels the Gunners are now in a position to cash in on their investment and challenge for major European titles.
‘Money was tight when we moved to the Emirates but it’s a lot freer now,’ said the 72-year-old.
‘We could go into the market and probably buy any player in the world, apart from half a dozen who are un-buyable. In the accounts, there’s over £200million in the bank. You could say to Arsene we’ve got no money and he wouldn’t worry, or you could give him £100m and he might not spend it.
‘At the moment there are no plans to sign anyone, unless he finds a real superstar like Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez. He’s looking for one of those but there aren’t many available. We would back him to break the club’s transfer record. If he wanted the man, he could have him. 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 an interview with the Daily Mail, the carpet tycoon revealed that Wenger’s top target is keen to make the move to the UK. The Gunners have already signed goalkeeper Petr Cech, and Lord Harris revealed that the first enquiries were made last summer when Thibaut Courtois returned to Stamford Bridge.
‘We get a list of the players that Wenger wants,’ said Lord Harris. ‘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.
‘He also wanted a top goalie, so we went out and got him. John Terry said that Cech will gain us 15 points a year, which would have won us the league last season. Since Jens Lehmann or David Seaman, we’ve not really had a world-class goalie. We made enquiries about Cech last summer but Chelsea couldn’t sell him because they didn’t know how Courtois was going to settle in.’
However having £200 million in the bank does not guarantee success. Drawing comparisons with their north London rivals, Lord Harris uses Tottenham’ s post-Gareth Bale spending as an example of how money does not always translate into points and trophies.
‘It’s not all about spending,’ said Lord Harris. ‘If you look at Tottenham, they sold a player for £80m and spent £110m and ended up worse off. Generally, Arsene doesn’t think you should fetch more than three first-team players in one season because it takes too long for them to link up. He knows how to produce players, too – we’ve got four or five very good youngsters who are coming through.
‘We’ve got a fantastic owner in Stan, who likes Arsene and lets you run the club. He wants to know the numbers and comes to every board meeting. We like to call it ‘The Arsenal Way’; even through our bad years, we always played nice football. Now, with a bit of luck around injuries, I think we can challenge strongly for the Premier League and the Champions League.’