With Karim Benzema facing an uncertain future at Al Ittihad, there are rumours that Arsenal could look to the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner as a short-term solution to their goal-scoring problem.
The Gunners' goalscoring problems have been well-documented this season, with Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli having a combined Premier League goal tally of just 11 so far this season.
Mikel Arteta's side have long been linked with a move for Brentford striker Ivan Toney, who will imminently return from an eight-month football ban following breaches of the Football Association (FA)'s betting rules - but any January move for the 26-year-old looks off the table due to the reported finances involved - making a summer move more realistic.
But Arsenal need a striking solution now, which is where Benzema could enter the fold.
Karim Benzema's current situation at Al Ittihad
The five-time UEFA Champions League winner is said to be unsettled in Saudi Arabia after joining Al Ittihad from Real Madrid last summer, with the Frenchman reportedly looking for an opportunity to resume his career in Europe.
He has reportedly missed six consecutive training sessions with his new Saudi club since his scheduled return from the winter break, and manager Marcelo Gallardo has now reportedly excluded the 36-year-old from the club's upcoming training camp squad.
Benzema's agents claim that his absence is because he is currently stranded in Mauritius, with flights in the East African country currently grounded due to a cyclone - but these claims are yet to be proven, and Gallardo's decision seems to have been made regardless.
But while Benzema may be keen for a return to European football, his club and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) are far from on board with the idea and are intent on keeping him in the Kingdom given that he is one of the marquee players currently representing the Saudi Pro League.
Would he be a good signing?
Yes. Okay, maybe that was a little to the point, so let me elaborate.
In the 2022/23 season, his most recent in European football (while playing for Real Madrid), he scored 19 goals and contributed three assists in just 24 La Liga appearances, while also achieving a goal contribution in every other Champions League game.
Even this season, in the Saudi Pro League, Benzema has amassed nine goals and five assists in just 15 appearances, with no signs of the prolific goalscorer slowing down any time soon.
Minor injury issues have hampered him over the last few seasons, but that is to be expected with someone of his age. If he were to join, his game-time would have to be managed carefully but, as a short-term option, his world-class quality more than makes up for any minor injury problems.
While the dynamic at Arsenal has changed massively over the last decade, it is worth noting that the club have previously held an interest in signing Benzema, most notably back in 2013, though a move never transpired at the time.
The finances involved in a deal
It was going great, but now it's time to dampen the potential excitement you may have over the idea of Benzema joining Arsenal. Given his situation in the Saudi Pro League, and their reluctance to lose him, a loan deal feels like the only even slightly viable option, which would admittedly suit Arsenal perfectly - as it would allow them to pursue permanent long-term targets in the summer, like the aforementioned Toney, or even Napoli's Victor Osimhen.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, Al Ittihad are expected to demand the majority, if not all, of Benzema's eye-watering £3.5m per week salary be paid by any prospective loan suitors.
It might not surprise you to learn that such a wage would simply be unaffordable to a club like Arsenal, whose current combined weekly wage bill is roughly £3.3m, meaning that taking onboard Benzema's wage would more than double the club's wage bill.
Given Al Ittihad and the PIF's reluctance to lose their superstar in the January transfer window, it is also not out of the question that they would expect a sizeable loan fee on top of Benzema's astronomical wages which, in my opinion, makes any move for him from Arsenal impossible, if it was not already.
In all, while I would love for Arsenal to sign Benzema on a short-term loan deal, it just does not look like a viable option and the associated financial outlay would represent frankly awful value, regardless of his undoubted world-class ability.
The fact remains that Arsenal need to sign a striker to be able to compete for major honours, but it looks clear to me that this will not, and cannot, be the French Ballon d'Or winner.