Wenger shrugs off reports linking Van Persie to Real
Arsene Wenger yesterday made light of reports linking Arsenal captain Robin van Persie with Real Madrid.
Van Persie (below) was quoted in the Spanish press yesterday morning as saying that he was interested in a move to Real.
Asked if he would respond to the striker's comments, Wenger said: "No. You should ask Robin van Persie."
He went on to disparage the provenance of the quotes. "In Spain, they are very creative," he said. "They've created another story. They don't care."
Van Persie's contract expires at the end of next season, leading to inevitable talk of him leaving this summer.
Yesterday 'Marca' newspaper quoted Van Persie as saying: "I'm grateful to hear about the interest of a club as important as Real Madrid. It's logical that players desire to play for them. But I don't believe that Arsenal accept any negotiations."
When asked whether Spanish interest in the Dutch striker might extend beyond Real Madrid to Barcelona, Wenger said yesterday that Arsenal would dig in. "What do you think (the answer would be)? Barcelona know that they have a difficult job with us always."
For all the speculation, Van Persie has been unequivocally Arsenal's best player for at least the last year. He is the Premier League's leading goal-scorer this season, with 22, and last night insisted that he has "never spoken to Marca".
Van Persie will play at Sunderland today, in what will be Thierry Henry's penultimate game before he returns to New York Red Bulls.
When Henry signed on loan, there were hopes that he would stay until the north London derby against Tottenham on February 26. But he will return to New York on Thursday, the day after the Champions League game in Milan.
"I would have been happy if he had stayed for two more weeks," said Wenger. "He would have had a psychological impact on the derby, but it did not work."
Although Arsenal start this weekend 10 points behind third-placed Spurs, Wenger expressed his hope that their rivals could still be caught, and when asked whether Arsenal were competing for fourth place, Wenger aimed even higher.
"It's not only for fourth place because Tottenham is not clear (in third)," he said.
"Mathematically Tottenham is 10 points ahead of us. That means they are seven points ahead of Chelsea. Seven points in our championship is not a lot." (© Independent News Service)
• PAUL COOK will remain at Sligo Rovers after failing to agree a deal with Accrington Stanley. The Liverpudlian is due to return to the Showgrounds this weekend after spending more than a week in England. Sligo granted him permission to speak to the League Two play-off hopefuls, but Cook could not agree terms.