Rafa Benitez made a late bid to bring Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin to Napoli at the transfer deadline, according to TMW.
Coquelin, 23, will be out of contract in the summer, but has been in fine form since breaking into Arsene Wenger’s line-up last month, making five consecutive Premier League starts to earn praise from fans and the media alike.
Wenger revalued last week that he was “99 per cent sure” his fellow Frenchman would remain at the Emirates Stadium for the long-term, with the club now said to have turned down Napoli’s approach due to a new deal being close to finalised.
Arriving in north London from local side Stade Lavellois in 2008, Coquelin would spend the 2010-11 season on loan at Ligue 1 outfit FC Lorient, before going on to earn his Gunners debut in the 8-2 thumping against Manchester United in August 2011.
The former France Under-21 international would struggle to break into the first-team over the following campaigns, however, taking in a further season-long loan at SC Freiburg last term, while also spending November at Charlton Athletic.
Returning to the Emirates Stadium due to spate of senior injuries, he has since proved a stalwart in the holding role, with some even hailing him as the club’s long-term answer at the position.
That includes club legend Thierry Henry, who believes his compatriot’s emergence persuaded Wenger not to delve back into the transfer market following the signing of defender Gabriel Paulista.
“For me the best thing they’ve done is bring Coquelin back from Charlton,” he told Sky Sports.
“Maybe if he hadn’t come back and played the way he did recently, Arsene would have gone and bought a defensive midfielder.
“He has been amazing, Arsenal don’t look like they will concede, they can score and he gave everyone protection everybody was talking about.
“Sometimes you look for that player and they are right in front of you. But the guy has matured, he went on loan, and knows he had to perform and he is doing it.”