Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez has claimed he believes "Karim Benzema will stay" at the Santiago Bernabeu despite speculation linking the France international with a summer move to Arsenal.
The future of the 27-year-old striker at the Spanish giants has been under scrutiny since the arrival of the former Liverpool boss to the club, after some reports claimed the manager was considering handing Cristiano Ronaldo the lone striker role.
And while Benitez has failed to clarify the situation during the pre-season games, Spanish newspaper AS reported on Sunday 2 August that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has earmarked the signing of his compatriot as his marquee signing of the summer.
The French boss broke the bank in the last two transfer windows to secure the services of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez from Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. And after he recently revealed Arsenal are open to signing a world-class striker before the end of the current transfer window should a good opportunity arrives, AS claims he has set aside £45m ($70m) to get the services of the Real Madrid star.
But Wenger denied those reports after the Community Shield victory over Chelsea on Sunday 2 August, saying: "No, nothing is happening. Honestly no. I don't know who brings that up. Is it Spanish media or English media? I don't know."
But the speculation has increased after it emerged the France international has been excluded from the Real Madrid side to face Tottenham in the Audi Cup on 4 August. However, Benitez has played down the rumours, claiming the striker and Ronaldo have not travelled to Munich with the rest of the squad due to injuries but he expects Benzema to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu next season.
"My answer is that I think he is staying with us. I am very happy with him. There is no reason to believe that he is leaving," he said as quoted by AS. "Cristiano and Benzema have not come with us. We don't want to take any risk with them because the most important thing is the health of our players."