‘Complete’ target admits Arsenal are ‘close to my heart’ after transfer interest

AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer has now admitted that Arsenal remain ‘close to my heart’, six years on from leaving Emirates Stadium after just one first-team outing.

The 26-year-old’s revelation also follows Mikel Arteta targeting a transfer for Bennacer in the summer. He was interested in taking the Algerian back to Arsenal after developing into a top talent in Italy. But the arrival of Declan Rice meant the Spaniard was happy with his midfield.
Bennacer enjoyed two-and-a-half years for Arsenal’s academy after arriving from AC Arles in January 2015. Arsene Wenger even dubbed the Arles, France-born ace as a ‘very promising’ talent in January 2017. Yet they then sold Bennacer to Empoli that August for a mere £900k.
Mikel Arteta wanted to sign Ismael Bennacer from AC Milan

Two years later and AC Milan were snapping at a chance to sign Bennacer. Yet The Guardian reported at the time that Arsenal rejected their right to buy the Algerian back. The Gunners had an option to match their bid worth an initial €16m (£14m) plus €2m (£1.5m) in add-ons.
It did not take Arsenal long to regret letting Bennacer slip through their fingers for a second time, either. Calciomercato reported in December 2020 that some Emirates Stadium chiefs still could not understand why they ever let the star of AC Milan’s team leave north London.
Arteta’s appreciation of Bennacer’s talents also continued to grow to the point that Arsenal targeted his transfer from AC Milan this summer. Football Transfers reported in May that he was the back-up target for Rice. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was also a big admirer.
Ismael Bennacer admits Arsenal are still ‘close to my heart’

Arteta drove Arsenal’s interest in Bennacer’s return but ultimately opted against triggering the €50m (£43m) release clause in his contract with AC Milan. The clause is only valid until 2024 after penning an extension through to June 2027 with the San Siro natives in January.

The 46-cap international Stefano Pioli now calls ‘complete’ has not achieved everything that he wants to with the Rossoneri yet, either. But Bennacer admits that Arsenal remain close to his heart despite only playing in one first-team game at Sheffield Wednesday in the EFL Cup.

“It’s true that Arsenal are among the clubs close to my heart,” Bennacer has told Sport Bible. “Arsenal and Milan have many similarities, in terms of the organisation and the fact they are family clubs.

“The Premier League is a very big competition and anyone would want to play there. But Milan is also a massive club and I feel very, very happy here.

“I’m someone who always likes to have targets for the future. But there are lots of things I still want to achieve with Milan. We’ll see.”

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