Last month saw Arsenal once again linked with a move for Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Lars Bender.
The dominating defensive midfielder has reportedly been a long-term target of Arsene Wenger’s. In the summer Arsenal made an £18.5 million bid for the player that was duly rejected by the Bundesliga club.
He signed a massive contract extension at the end of last year that will keep him at the club until 2019. But that did not seem to put Arsenal off of a deal. The Gunners were linked with a £20 million approach for this summer.
Bender made it clear that he was happy to stay at Bayer in 2013, saying he wants to ‘be part of the story’ at the BayArena. He reiterated that fact a few weeks ago, telling German media:
"I feel settled here and see no reason to change anything. In fact, if I am to be completely honest, I haven’t had an overly brilliant season and don’t feel ready yet to take on a pivotal role at a big club somewhere else. I need to keep working on my game, and I am going to do that here at Leverkusen. That suits me, and I am happy with that."
But Arsenal would have still been hoping to convince their number one holding midfield target to come to North London. Maybe the World Cup would give him a taste for playing against Premier League opposition. Perhaps he will have an excellent campaign and decide he is good enough to make the move to a, in his own words, 'big club'.
Well if that was a genuine hope, it is not anymore.
Bender has been ruled out of the World Cup through a thigh injury, leaving Jogi Low short of holding midfield options himself.
The German national team coach announced the news this morning:
"If so just before a tournament injury hits a player, then that's disappointing for all. For Lars I'm personally very sorry - I know he wanted to be here in Brazil..."
Arsenal scouts might have to look elsewhere in Brazil now that Bender will have to watch from home.