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Maritzburg Utd sign Youlley

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Lars Bender rejects Arsenal talk

Bayer Leverkusen captain Lars Bender has dismissed speculation linking him with a move to Arsenal after a difficult season.

Lars Bender was reported to be Arsenal's top target this summer.
Lars Bender was reported to be Arsenal's top target this summer.

Transfer Talk: Arsenal in for Martinez?

Newspapers including the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail have reported in recent days that Germany international Bender, 25, is Arsene Wenger's top target this summer.

However, the holding midfielder extended his contract in October and he said that, after a tough campaign with Leverkusen, he does not feel the time is right for a transfer.

"I've only just prolonged my contract until 2019," Bender told Bild. "I am happy here at Leverkusen and feel great. I don't need to change that right away. Moreover, my season wasn't that brilliant, so I don't feel I need to make the move to a huge club now."

Leverkusen endured a mixed season, having been just four points behind eventual champions Bayern Munich in early December before enduring a spectacular collapse in form that saw them lose eight of their next 11 Bundesliga games.

During that period, they endured a miserable week that saw them exit the DFB-Pokal to second-tier side Kaiserslautern, lose to Schalke in the league and then sustain a 4-0 home defeat in their Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Paris Saint-Germain.

A defeat to relegation-threatened Hamburg in April later cost coach Sami Hyypia his job, but caretaker boss Sascha Lewandowski, who had previously worked alongside Hyypia, steered Leverkusen back on course and a victory at home to Werder Bremen on the final day of the season will secure Champions League qualification.

"It wasn't an easy year for any of us," Bender said. "We've been through nearly everything and felt all there is to feel. The euphoria in the Hinrunde [first part of the season] was followed by the many defeats of the Rueckrunde [second part of the season]. We've lost two or three in a row in the past and it got uncomfortable, but I have never experienced the sheer magnitude of this. That was new to me."

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