Lyon chief admits Man Utd can afford Benzema, Ben Arfa

He told FootMercato: "First of all, I think that Manchester are a club that have the financial means to achieve such transfers.

"Secondly, I think it has been clumsy from Sir Ferguson to make such declarations before a game as important as this one. He is a great personality in football.

"I have been surprised because those declarations don't correspond to the man he is."

Lacombe was also asked if £40 million would be enough to sign the duo.

"No, the players' value is much higher," he said. "To sign them, Manchester would have to put Old Trafford on mortgage and maybe other club's properties.

"To speak more seriously, today Karim is worth double of what Michael Essien cost (the Ghana midfielder was transferred to Chelsea for £28 million).

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"When you hear Karim speaking, he means he is with us for the 2008/2009 season, and maybe for the 2009/2010. He has decided he will stay at OL. So he will play for Lyon one more season, maybe two.

"(Ben Arfa) should stay as well. We want to build the club around them. They arrived at a very young age with us and we helped them to gain maturity. We are hopeful we will spend two or three more seasons with them.

"We will do what is needed to suit them, including the financial demands regarding their status. But at a moment, if the difference is too important, we will study the best solution in the club's interest.

"They have not received offers yet. The only option is Karim, who said on TV that if he had to leave one day he would go to [Real] Madrid. The player wants it.

"From my part, I hope that he will leave us as late as possible. Having those players is a huge pride for Olympique Lyonnais.

"They have been educated at the club, as well as Sidney Govou and it is rare today to have three starters in the Champions League from your academy."

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